The First Lawfare Drone Smackdown

By Benjamin Wittes
Sunday, July 1, 2012, 8:02 AM

I have been challenged to a dogfight.

The other day, over lunch, Alice Beauheim--occasional Lawfare book review writer, godmother of the Lawfare license plate, and an employee, if you catch my meaning, of the U.S. government, whose views this post surely does not reflect--announced with a mischievous gleam in her eye that she was thinking of building a drone. Having occasionally knocked around on this drone-building web site myself, I told her I had been thinking along the same lines. Initial discussions of a possible collaboration quickly gave way to competition ("my drone can beat up your drone") and then to trash talk ("your drone wears combat boots," "no your drone wears combat boots").

Before either of us knew it, the Lawfare Drone Smackdown was born.

Between now and Labor Day weekend, Alice and I are each going to build an armed drone using the AR Parrot drone as a base.  Any modification to the drone as purchased is legal so long as (a) it is done by the contestant (combatant) himself or herself, (b) its deployment and use does not violate any laws or ordinances applicable in the District of Columbia, and (c) the total cost of modification does not exceed $200. Any other Lawfare reader who wishes to build a combat drone subject to these conditions is welcome to enter the Smackdown too. But please. Only actual blog readers; no robotics engineers posing as national security lawyers. The exact time and place of the Smackdown, which will take place in D.C., will be announced closer to the event itself.

The rules will be simple: The last drone in the air and capable of landing safely wins.

As Parrot drones have nifty on-board video cameras, we expect good aerial combat photography and video, which we will, of course, post.