- By David KennerDavid Kenner is the Middle East editor at Foreign Policy. He is based in Beirut, Lebanon, and has been with FP since 2009 (a long time, he knows). He worked for FP previously in Cairo, where he covered the early days of the Arab Spring, and before that in Washington. He has attended Georgetown University and the American University of Beirut and has reported from Libya, Egypt, Gaza, Turkey, Lebanon, and Iraq.
Foreign Policy‘s new War Issue shows how drones have transformed the war against the Taliban and fueled President Barack Obama’s counterterrorism strategy. But it’s not only the cutting-edge technology that’s evolving — the tools to build a basic drone are now available to those of us who will never set foot in CIA headquarters.
Stanford University professor Francis Fukuyama, who is better known for airy political science theories such as "the end of history," has spent the past few months building his very own unmanned aerial vehicle. As he described in a blog post over at the American Interest, it is a "quadcopter" — a helicopter with four rotors – and is equipped with a Sony flip video camera. Fukuyama has uploaded two videos filmed from his drone: The one above shows it hovering over a baseball field near Stanford and is accompanied by music from the a cappella group the Swingle Singers.
In an article for the Financial Times, Fukuyama says he was inspired to build a drone by the prospect that it would provide a new dimension to his photography. But since then, his project has taken on a life of its own as he seeks to push the limits of what’s possible in the world of do-it-yourself unmanned aerial vehicles.
But the nefarious uses of this new technology don’t fail to escape Fukuyama: Do we really want to live in a world, he asks, where private individuals have access to the destructive power of drones? "As the technology becomes cheaper and more commercially available, moreover, drones may become harder to trace; without knowing their provenance, deterrence breaks down," he writes. "A world in which people can be routinely and anonymously targeted by unseen enemies is not pleasant to contemplate."