Admittedly I’m not necessarily up on Germany political news, but any story that involves a drone irritating politicians on national TV piques my interest. Toss in there the German “Pirate Party,” which I didn’t even know existed until, and you’ve got my undivided attention.
During an election rally in Dresden on Sunday, a small remote-controlled drone distracted and entertained the crowd by buzzing around for a few minutes. It then headed straight for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, eventually landing on the podium in front of her. Apparently, we’ve graduated from throwing shoes to crashing parties with robots. That seems about right. Murkel played it cool, with a slight smile and nod toward the drone, before someone rushed it and whisked it away, likely right after police identified and arrested the operator.
Germany’s Pirate Party—I can’t get over how much I love this, and how fun it is to image their logos and slogans—took credit for the drone, stating that they wanted to give Merkel a taste of how it feels to be watched all the time. Fair point. When are we getting a Pirate Party. Both Sweden and Germany got their Pirate Parties in 2006, which are primarily concerned with the fight against governmental regulations and restrictions on the Internet. The party’s all about freedom—not about plundering, so far as I can tell— and they’re pissed about a recent government drone surveillance scandal.
Which recent surveillance scandal, you ask? Well, there are indeed many to choose from, but lest you think these are somehow all tied to the U.S., you might be surprised to learn that Germany’s had its own share. Earlier this year, amid controversy, Germany canceled its plan to initiate the “Euro Hawk” drone program because of the probability that the drones wouldn’t be certified for flight in Europe. They don’t have collision avoidance systems, which would prove useful, and adding one would have been monumentally expensive, adding another 250 million euros to a base price of 600 million.
The manufacturer is the American company Northrop Grumman, which was going to modify the Global Hawk drones for Germany’s specific surveillance purposes. Still, the nation ended up forking over about 500 million euros before it gave up on the program. The Pirate Party simply wanted to remind everyone at the election rally of the debacle and to rub it in the face of the Chancellor a little bit more. I can’t say I entirely blame them, though I do wonder who will be spying on the election rallies when robots are running for office.