Look! Up there! A pretty little bird gliding majestically through the sky, encapsulating the beauty of na — oh wait. It's a high-tech surveillance drone.
Over recent years, more than 30 Chinese military and government agencies have been reportedly using drones made to look like birds to surveil China's citizens in at least five provinces, according to the South China Morning Post Sunday.
The program is reportedly codenamed "Dove" and run by Song Bifeng, a professor at Northwestern Polytechnical University in Xi'an. Song was formerly a senior scientist on the Chengdu J-20, Asia's first fifth-generation stealth fighter jet, according to the Post.
The bird-like drones mimic the flapping wings of a real bird using a pair of crank-rockers driven by an electric motor. Each drone has a high-definition camera, GPS antenna, flight control system and data link with satellite communication capability, according to the Post.
While the "scale is still small", according to Yang Wenqing, a member of Song's team in a comment to the Post, the researchers "believe the technology has good potential for large-scale use in the future … it has some unique advantages to meet the demand for drones in the military and civilian sectors."
It's not like China needs to step up its surveillance game. It employs facial recognition, artificial intelligence, smart glasses and other technologies to monitor its 1.4 billion citizens with the aim of one day giving each of them a personal score based on how they behave.