Q&A: Drones' self-destruct technology isn't foolproof

Drone self-destruct not foolproof

Why doesn't the Air Force, CIA or whoever operates these drones place a self-destruct device that will destroy the aircraft and, thus, prevent it from falling into the wrong hands?

The United States has been very hush-hush on this topic, refusing for almost two weeks to confirm that the drone aircraft Iran is showing off is the missing U.S. drone, a Lockheed-Martin RQ-170 Sentinel that went AWOL in early December while flying a reconnaissance mission over western Afghanistan.

U.S. military officials are also tight-lipped about the capabilities and functions of the drone. But the online news organization Slate.com, citing reporting David Axe's book, War Bots: How U.S. Military Robots are Transforming the War in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Future, suggested the drone did have a self-destruct capability, but that the technology isn't foolproof.

Slate said if the drone lost contact, the self-destruct button wouldn't work, and even if there were onboard explosives they might not destroy the aircraft. When drones have gone down in the past, Slate suggested, the military has sent in manned attack jets to destroy what was left of the aircraft.

Time magazine reported that U.S. officials considered destroying the drone, but elected not to, which could imply they aren't too worried about what the Iranians can do with it or learn from it.

Sea critters buried at Fort De Soto

Twenty-plus years ago a very large dead whale washed up in St. Petersburg and the carcass was buried at Fort De Soto to allow for decomposition, then was to be exhumed and displayed. Whatever became of the whale's skeleton?

We couldn't find a reference to the incident you're asking about. While whale beachings are relatively rare in Florida, they do happen often enough to make specificity difficult.

We can tell you that Fort De Soto is a favorite burial ground for sea creatures that wash ashore in this area.

A 2009 story in the Times detailed the burial of a baleen whale that had floated into the Port of Tampa. It was taken to Fort De Soto to join sperm whales, manatees, sea turtles and dolphins that have been buried there since 1975, about 100 feet from shore.

"Some day, 200 years from now," parks supervisor Jim Wilson said, "somebody's going to think this is the marine graveyard."

Daylight time returns March 11

When do we go back to daylight saving time? I'm tired of it getting dark so early.

Clocks move ahead the second Sunday in March, and back the first Sunday in November. So for 2012, we spring ahead an hour at 2 a.m. March 11. We'll fall back an hour on Nov. 4.

Q&A: Drones' self-destruct technology isn't foolproof 12/18/11 [Last modified: Sunday, December 18, 2011 3:30am]

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