Smack that b*tch up….

Posted: December 11, 2015 in news

government meme

This started out as a Facebook rant but as it got rather long I decided that a blogpost would be a more suitable medium.

It is worrying how many new laws and legislative changes are happening in Ireland lately without people really noticing.
Take the whole discussion on parents giving their own children a little slap, It’s been part of raising kids without any issues for centuries but recently there has been a lot of discussion on the topic with certain people in the government suggesting that it should be banned by law.
And hey presto, as of midnight last night it is now against the law to discipline your own child in that manner.
How the hell did that happen?!

Apart from the speed with which this happened the actual law change is worrying. It is yet another step by the state to remove powers from the parents and the family and put them firmly under state control. There was no need for it as excessive use of physical violence against anyone, including children, is already punishable under law.

No, this legislative move is part of a larger agenda. Just look back at what else has been done recently;

The Childrens Rights referendum; promoted as improving child protection but more children have died in child care than ever before since this was passed. All it did was give the to take away rights from the family & parents and put them under state control.

-Sugar tax & alcohol minimum pricing: The state clearly thinks people are too stupid to be allowed to decide what to eat and drink and that financial punitive measures are the best way to put the dumb-asses in line.

Banning smoking in a car with children: This is an interesting one. While smoking in a car with children is insanely stupid do we require a law to enforce this? What’s wrong with education combined with social pressure?

Removal of history from the school curriculum and replacing it with “politics & society” classes; this is nothing but a cynical ploy to indoctrinate children at a young age. Especially considering that the “liberal progressive” groups such as the “Gay & Lesbian Equality Network” are given a big part in deciding the contents of these classes. Not a single centrist or conservative organisation has been approached for their input.

The most worrying aspect is that none of these new laws, legislative changes and other measures have been initiated based on majority demand. Instead we policy is now being driven by the state itself (rather than the people) or by minority lobby groups. The state is simply looking to increase its power, especially now that the power of the church and the financial industry is waning. It has ceased to be representative of or acting in the interest of the people.

And that my friends is the end of democracy….

In the run-up to the recent Irish marriage referendum I and others like me repeatedly pointed out that the proposed constitutional amendment would bring with it a whole raft subsequent legal issues affecting a wide range of areas.
We pointed out that the proposed legislation was part of a larger agenda, one of radical social change which will transform our society in ways most people could not imagine.
The response from both the government and the squealing hordes of “Yes” campaigners was that nothing was less true and that the Marriage Referendum was only about “the love between two people” and that we were making “Gra” the law. Besides the sheer idiocy of suggesting that legislating emotions is a good idea this has been proven to be purposely misleading campaigning.
Less than two weeks have passed since the referendum and already we are seeing a raft of social change legislation being proposed.
In the last week alone there has been a strong push for the repeal of the 8th amendment of the Irish constitution which would mean the removal of the equal right to life of an unborn child to that of the mother. If this is repealed it will open the door to abortions right up to full gestation.
There’s the issue of euthanasia. Nobody likes the thought of terminally ill people having to suffer without a glimmer of hope on the horizon. But we only need to look at countries which have legalised euthanasia in the past to see the “mission creep” to a state where euthanasia is being performed on children and not only on people who are terminally ill but also on people with depression who have “lost the will to live”.
Both proposals concern legislation allowing the early termination of life and even an staunch agnostic as myself can not see the benefit in this.
However one issue is even more topical than the previous two and that is the issue of trans-genderism. Our papers, news-feeds ad social media have been inundated by news about Bruce Jenner and how he is now a woman.
Bruce has had cosmetic surgery to make him look like a woman and this is being celebrated in the media as the summum of heroism.
The blanket media coverage of this is nearly so complete that one would be excused for not noticing that the Irish government is about to pass a quite drastic gender recognition bill.
While it should be perfectly acceptable for people with genuine gender issues (especially trans-sex people) to be given recognition under the law this bill goes far, far beyond that.
The original bill included sections which required that a medical opinion ( from a psychiatrist or endocrinologist) was required before people could be legally change their gender. Protest by hard-core LBGT activists has led to this being removed from the act. People can now “self recognise”. What that means is that anyone over the age of 18 can basically wake up tomorrow, shout “I’m a woman” in case of a man or “I’m a man” in case of a woman and they will be given full legal recognition of this without any qualified proof whether they are actually transgender or if they just are suffering from severe psychological issues. It’s worth noting that people identifying as a different gender after undergoing severe mental trauma is not an uncommon occurrence.
The original bill also included a section that basically stated that if you changed gender once it was for life. There was no option for flip-flopping at a later stage and “identifying” as your original gender. This section made perfect sense as legally changing your gender required a medical opinion hence a person had been diagnosed as genuinely transgender. Having removed the required medical opinion from the bill our legislators have recognised the legal loophole that would exist with allowing people to self-identify, i.e. people can be wrong. So they had no other option but to introduce open-ended legislation allowing people to *legally* change their gender as often as they wanted.
The result is a complete and utter legal quagmire.
One of the first casualties is family law. The current legislation states that if one partner in a marriage changes their gender (be it legally, via surgery or both) that the marriage would become void. After all marriage is a legal contract under law and if you change one of the parties in a contract as well as the terms and conditions such a contract would be voided.
It’s known as the “forced divorce clause”.
The marriage would also be voided because under Irish law two people of the same-sex cannot be married.
While there might still be valid legal grounds to seek to have the marriage voided it will not happen automatically anymore once this new bill passes. The other partner will possibly have to request for it to be voided or even file for divorce (which would quite likely still require a separation period).
All in all, the raft of social change legislation being foisted upon us is demolishing not only the fundamentals of our society but also of our legislation. This while at the same time being presented as simple, stand alone changes which will have no further impact than allowing people to love themselves and each other.
Unfortunately nothing is further from the truth.
samuel l equality

Note: the below blogpost pertains to the upcoming Irish constitutional referendum.

We’ve seen them all, those lovely visual messages produced by the “yes” campaign in the upcoming marriage referendum. Images of people of different and the same race, sexuality and walks of life hugging and high-fiving each other in a visual extravaganza of being “all about the love”. One would be hard pressed to object. After all who would not support equality and love?
Well as it happens it’s the “yes” side who do not support equality. Especially pertains to equality of law and equality of freedom of expression.
Take the example of the recently erected (pardon my French) mural on Georges Street in Dublin. The multi-story mural depicts two men embracing. No problem with that. The artist responsible for the mural, Joe Caslin, has publicly stated that the mural is on support of a “Yes” vote in the upcoming referendum. Again, perfectly fine and something that should be allowed. However, and here is the problem, murals like that require planning permission. Especially if they broadcast a political message supporting one side in an upcoming constitutional referendum. It’s similar to election posters, the public display of which is tightly regulated with substantial fines being levied for breaches.  It comes as no surprise then that the Planning Enforcement section of Dublin City Council has issued a statement that “the mural is under investigation and Section 152 Warning Letter has issued in relation to mural.”.
Did the “yes” side think that they were exempt of the applicable legislation?
Well apparently they do! Following the news that Dublin City Council is enforcing the existing legislation the “yes” side has started an petition demanding that the mural in question be made exempt from the applicable legislation. So clearly, one law for us and another for everyone else. Ironically, at the same time they are caterwauling about the message on the poster from the “no” campaign.
Posters which it’s worth noting are displayed legally and which are not in breach of *any* regulations. They have even gone as far as tearing down posters (posting pictures of this on Twitter).
Clear and obvious proof that a fair referendum where the electorate can cast an informed vote is not something which they desire. This is not a unique phenomenon, if we look at other countries or jurisdictions we will see that the introduction of legislation similar to the proposed constitutional amendment has across the board lead to a reduction in civil liberties and freedom of speech. The main difference in Ireland would be that if the referendum returns a majority yes vote such a reduction in civil liberties and freedom of speech would be enshrined in our constitution.
That’s why we should ask ourselves, is granting a tiny minority (gay people make up less than 3% of the population) their wishes worth the loss of civil liberties and freedom of speech for all of us?


The Irish electorate will be going to the polls on May 22nd to vote in a referendum. The motion that is being put before the people is if the constitution should be amended by removing the definition of a family as a union between a man and a woman (I seem to have to add that this is not a verbatim reflection of the constitution but merely the widely accepted interpretation). By removing this definition from the constitution it will be possible to define a marriage as a union between a man and a woman, a man and a man, a woman and a woman and if you want to drag it into extremis it could be a union between anything and anything.

But that’s not what this blog-post is about. I for one think that a referendum is a good thing, as long as it’s an informed one. Let the electorate decide and whatever the majority desires will be passed into law. Or into the constitution in this case. Such is the way of democracy.

There is a fly in the ointment though. Or actually there is a whole swarm of blue-bottles. See the thing is that in order for democracy to work the electorate should be able to inform themselves and to speak freely and discuss the issues at hand. There should be no fear for repercussion for having a different or unpopular opinion and informed debate should not only be possible, it should be stimulated and safe-guarded.

However this is not the case. At the moment in Ireland a case of genital warts would make one more popular than opposing the above described constitutional amendment. Those favouring traditional marriage are shouted down in debates, insulted, labelled as “homophobes” and threatened with violence. But that’s still not enough. No, repeated calls can be heard during debates, in the press and in/on (social) media for supporters of traditional marriage to be silenced. It’s a clear case of “dissent will not be tolerated”. Rather than engaging in robust debate the same-sex marriage storm-troopers insist that any different opinion is ground to dust under the heel of their jackboots. Ad hominem attacks are preferred over arguments and some really unsavoury methods are used. Comments are made along the line that certain prominent traditional marriage supporters should “just die”. Other rabid lefties have started profiling traditional marriage supporters, their families and their professional activities and sharing this information amongst their cronies. It’s a highly questionable method and one that only requires one single mentally unhinged person who thinks that this constant vilification is enough justification to take direct action.

What’s interesting is that if you return the profiling favour you will notice that same-sex marriage storm-troopers all have very similar profiles. They support abortion, euthanasia, Palestine, higher taxes, are pro vaccination (and quite a lot of them are soccer fans for some reason). But the over-arching trend is that these people are all prototypical statist. They all believe that the state should determine what the greater good is and that everyone should subject themselves to this. This is a profoundly un-intellectual and un-democratic way of reasoning. After all dissent leads to debate and a frank and honest exchange of thought, ideas and opinions lies at the base of some of the greatest progress made by mankind.

Which brings me to my next point; history has proven that this type of legislation will lead directly to the end of freedom of speech and expression. I am going to use Canada as an example as that country legislated for this type of same-sex marriage in 2002. So we will have a period of over 10 years to see what the effects were. Removing the definition describing marriage as a union between a man and a woman from the constitution not only makes it possible for same-sex couples to marry, it by effect makes a marriage between a heterosexual and a homosexual couple equal.

A corollary is that anyone who rejects the new orthodoxy must be acting on the basis of bigotry and animus toward gays and lesbians. Any statement of disagreement with same-sex civil marriage is thus considered a straightforward manifestation of hatred toward a minority sexual group. Any reasoned explanation (for example, those that were offered in legal arguments that same-sex marriage is incompatible with a conception of marriage that responds to the needs of the children of the marriage for stability, fidelity, and permanence—what is sometimes called the conjugal conception of marriage), is dismissed right away as mere pretext. (Justice LaForme in Halpern v. Canada (AG), 2002 CanLII 49633 (On SC), paras. 242-43)

Once you classify something as bigotry and hatred its only a logical next step to ban it and take legal action against those who display it. Two groups will be hit hardest by this; those employed by the state and those who on religious or conscientious grounds object to partake, service or host ceremonies involving same-sex marriage. Those groups have been hit with sanctions, dismissal and legal action. In short resistance will be futile. However there is hope, in certain states in the US laws have recently been passed allowing people the freedom to do as described above on religious or conscientious grounds. Reactionists have called these laws “homophobic” but nothing less is true. The laws make no reference to anyone’s sexuality and equally give people the right to refuse to do business with someone they find offensive, rude or smelling badly. A similar law is currently being debated by the Northern Ireland government. Here in Ireland deputy Mattie McGrath brought the issue of such a law up in the Dial only last week.

The above only touches on the area of acting in objection to equalising same-sex marriage to traditional marriage. There is also the issue of simply voicing such an opinion. Remember freedom of expression is the bedrock of democracy. To explain my point I’ll quote from an article on the “Public Discourse” website by Bradley Miller;

Much speech that was permitted before same-sex marriage now carries risks. Many of those who have persisted in voicing their dissent have been subjected to investigations by human rights commissions and (in some cases) proceedings before human rights tribunals. Those who are poor, poorly educated, and without institutional affiliation have been particularly easy targets—anti-discrimination laws are not always applied evenly.  Some have been ordered to pay fines, make apologies, and undertake never to speak publicly on such matters again. Targets have included individuals writing letters to the editors of local newspapers, and ministers of small congregations of Christians. A Catholic bishop faced two complaints—both eventually withdrawn—prompted by comments he made in a pastoral letter about marriage.

Reviewing courts have begun to rein in the commissions and tribunals (particularly since some ill-advised proceedings against Mark Steyn andMaclean’s magazine in 2009), and restore a more capacious view of freedom of speech. And in response to the public outcry following the Steyn/Maclean’saffair, the Parliament of Canada recently revoked the Canadian Human Rights Commission’s statutory jurisdiction to pursue “hate speech.”

Teachers are particularly at risk for disciplinary action, for even if they only make public statements criticizing same-sex marriage outside the classroom, they are still deemed to create a hostile environment for gay and lesbian students. Other workplaces and voluntary associations have adopted similar policies as a result of their having internalized this new orthodoxy that disagreement with same-sex marriage is illegal discrimination that must not be tolerated.

So there is factual proof that once such laws are passed equalising same-sex marriage to traditional marriage that acting or even speaking out in disagreement will no longer be tolerated and will have serious consequences. Couple this to the fact that the majority of those supporting the introduction of such legislation already do not tolerate dissent in the debate prior to a democratic vote on this issue and it will be clear that if such a constitutional amendment is allowed to pass that these people will call for the strictest and most stringent punitive action for anyone who still dares to simply disagree.

It is also not beyond the realm of possibility (and has actually already happened in other countries and jurisdictions) that parents who on religious or conscientious grounds object to same-sex marriage will be forced to have their children educated otherwise in their schools. Again if the state classifies objection as hate-speech (thereby making it akin to racism or holocaust denial) the state cannot allow children to be taught such hate-speech in schools.

In conclusion one cannot deny the fact that experience in other jurisdictions/countries combined with the rabid intolerant of dissent displayed by the hard-line same-sex marriage campaigners *even prior to the referendum* that yes indeed, the constitutional amendment on which the Irish constituency will vote on May 22nd will, if passed, lead to end to freedom of speech, expression and quite possibly thought in Ireland. That my friends, and that alone should be sufficient reason to vote no.

It will be one year tomorrow since Typhoon Yolanda struck the Philippines. Obviously there will be lots of retrospectives published online and in the printed press. Most of these will outline the great work that has been done and is still ongoing. While I fully support those types of articles I’ve decided to do something different. I’m going to summarise the obstacles that we’ve encountered when responding with Disaster Tech Lab. You can read all the good stuff about our work following typhoon Yolanda here. However by summarising the obstacles we encountered, the mistakes we made i hope to make even a tiny small contribution on how disaster response and humanitarian aid could be improved.

By no means is this a study on the subject, these are simply my observations from the left-field of disaster response. Disaster Tech Lab is only a small organisation and we sometimes have an unconventional approach. We also have a task focussed rather than a process focussed approach and this occasionally conflicts with organisations who prefer to do more planning and discussion. I have also broken this into bulletpoints rather than elaborate analysis. It’s supposed to serve as a catalyst for discussion rather than a guideline.

  • Tunnel vision: While Tacloban was probably to most severely hit area by Yolanda it received too much focus by the media and the major aid organisations. Hence it became a black hole for resources. While Yolanda made its East to West path across the Philippines it also hit areas such a East Samar, North Cebu, Panay and Culion & Busuanga islands. I am fully aware that even for the large NGO’s resources are limited and it’s impossible but even considering that Tacloban received an unequal share of the aid.The cynic in me says that’s partially due to the overwhelming media focus on the area. Most of the initial aid provided to the outlying areas was provided by smaller, grassroots type organisations like ours, individuals and/or faith based organisations.
  • Logistics: We experienced several issues here. We had no pre-established logistical planning for a response to the Philippines and due to the urgency logistical arrangements had to be made up on the fly. With a damaged infra-structure and a huge influx of responders, equipment and supplies that is a recipe for disaster. A large batch of our equipment went “missing” and some is still stuck in customs (yes after 8 months and reams & reams of forms completed and submitted by us). When we switched to having volunteers bring equipment with them on their flight in as excess baggage we sometimes ran into other issues. This led to such things as panicky incoming phonecalls at 4 am from a Korean airport when one of our volunteers wasn’t allowed to check in the Goal Zero batteries he was carrying and was also not allowed to bring them as carry-on. While large NGO’s have the budget to pay for commercial airfreight or get space on other airlifts for an organisation like us, who do not have the funding for this, it remains a challenge. We have since worked to bring logistical expertise in-house and are developing logistical plans for the most likely destinations across the globe.
  • Biggest kid on the block: After so many years and so many disasters during which small grassroots type organisations and the “informal organisations” have made valuable contributions to the relief effort it still seems to be largely impossible for the larger NGO’s to recognise the increasing value these organisations bring as part of the overall relief effort. Most large NGO’s either are unaware of anything that’s not happening on their doorstep or within their direct network or they’re just flat-out not interested in working with such smaller organisations. This brings the added complication that some of the larger donors of relief supplies and equipment donate to these larger organisations expecting that their donation, to an extent, is shared amongst the the responding organisations. Instead these donations hardly ever make it past the few organisations at the top of the pyramid. Direct, validated requests by smaller organisations to larger ones for support are ignored or flat out refused. This in spite of clear evidence and report after report on the value that these smaller organisations bring to the overall relief effort. I am not going to name names but those at both sides of this divide know what I am talking about. A better cooperation and a recognition of the value of each others work and the different parts of the disaster response puzzle that each of us brings will only make future responses better.
  • Prevention is better than a cure: While we had seen this before, even during response in the USA, the disadvantaged areas are always the slowest to recover after a major disaster. While this is self-explanatory as it is you can’t repair what isn’t there in the first place. If an community doesn’t have any dependable means of communication you can’t rebuild one. If there’s no hospital to start with, and hence no trained medical personnel, then providing medical aid becomes a larger undertaking. As we worked in areas that can be described as disadvantaged we gave this challenge some deeper thought and quickly came to the conclusion that rebuilding better rather than just rebuilding after a disaster is an important step. This not only means that infra-structure and services need to be rebuilt better and more resilient but you need to teach people how to become more resilient themselves. This is not solely a question of improving skills but also a matter of mindset. As governments are struggling to respond to disasters in an efficient manner people will have to learn that recovery and rebuild efforts will require a lot of their own hands-on input. An interesting observation is that we noticed an increased dependency and expectation in the more westernised, touristy areas of the Philippines while the more remote (but significantly poorer) areas showed much more resilience and willingness to improve their own lot.
  • Trust no-one: Well actually, trust everyone but carry a big stick. During our disaster relief work following Yolanda we again learned that when you are doing relief work in far away beautiful destinations you will sometimes attract people who volunteer driven by the main desire to get an all expenses paid holiday. We encountered this again and as a result of this we have tightened up our volunteer screening procedures even more! There is no room for profiteering in this work and we have a 100% no tolerance policy on this. It is *not* representative of 99.9% of the volunteers working in this field and we won’t let that 0.1% mess things up. However as a non-profit you should never drop your guard; just because someone volunteers doesn’t make them a saint. Screen the person, screen their motivation, screen their references and use your intuition.

Vegetarianism is anti-ecological.

Posted: September 13, 2014 in Uncategorized


Following is a verbatim copy of a article put on Facebook by Bart Hall some time ago. Bart is someone who makes a living growing things in a way that gets dirt under ones fingernails. He uses an organic, natural and no-nonsense approach to farming and I found the article refreshing and insightful enough to share here.


Vegetarianism is anti-ecological, and cruel to animals besides. I’m fed up with self-righteous vegetarians claiming both moral superiority and ecological sensitivity for their proclivities. How they eat is their choice, but they become extremely tiresome when they attempt to promote it to others based on clear falsehoods. I’m not talking here about humane treatment issues — I’m appalled by the way many animals are raised, and it generates a very poor product in any case. We need, however, to look at agronomic reality.

Taking cattle as an example (or bison, or sheep, or any other ruminant) it is essential to understand that they are solar-powered grass combines, converting captured solar energy into a very nutritious (and *tasty*) product, rich in high-quality protein. The forages they eat (grass and legumes such as clover) are generally *perennial* crops, protecting the land, building the soil, and storing immense amounts of carbon in their roots.

By comparison, soyabeans and other sources of vegetable protein require annual working of the soil, leaving much of it open to erosion and what we soil scientists call “mineralisation” of soil organic matter (=carbon). A large percentage, perhaps even a plurality, of atmospheric CO2 increases in the last 150 years is the direct result of working the world’s soils to grow maize (corn) and soyabeans instead of leaving it in grass to feed cattle.

Humans will always need cereals and tubers for carbohydrates, but most of our protein should come from animals because (properly raised) they build the soil instead of destroying it.

Vegetarians have no idea how many sentient beings are destroyed in the production of grain and soyabeans, to say nothing of its storage. Based on normal pest-management criteria (and I’ve inspected *thousands* of grain storage facilities in many different countries) it is safe to say that one or two sentient beings (primarily rodents) perish to protect the storage of each kilogram of plant protein. Not only are we talking poison, but “live traps” which when opened will often contain one large mouse and at least a dozen tails.

With grass-fed beef the worst case is that one sentient being (the bovine) dies for every 50 kilograms of protein. Are cattle inherently better and more noble than rats and mice?

Furthermore, in many forage production situations I can increase yields by 50% merely through the addition of a few grams per acre of molybdenum. For geeky purists out there that’s because moly mediates the nitrogenase enzyme pathways responsible for capturing nitrogen from the atmosphere, which nitrogen thereafter increases yields, often substantially. So add some moly to your forage system and beef can beat vegetable protein by up to 100 to 1 in terms of sentient animal deaths per kilo of protein.

Dairy, because the animals are not slaughtered is vastly better yet, but many vegetarians will consume dairy, so I have left it out. By extension, then, veganism is even worse than vegetarianism.

If you wish to protect the planet and minimise the deaths of sentient beings, eat meat and dairy. I’ll be right there with you in terms of struggling to make sure it’s raised properly. How it’s done these days is widely awful, but that’s not the critters’ fault, and vegetarianism is no answer.


Buying local makes sense, and it also does not. I grew up in an “eat local” world, not based on philosophy, it’s just the way it was. Except for grain products nearly everything my family ate in the 1950s came from within 100 miles — milk, eggs, meat, veggies, fruit, and seafood. Mind you, I grew up on the coast, with one side of the family in the shellfish business and the other in produce, but it was not at all unusual for the era. We called it all “native” food, as in native peaches, native turkey, native eggs and so on. We ate with the seasons, and we ate rather well. The first time I ever tasted salmon was at age 24 in the Yukon.

That said, southern New England was a remarkably good place for eating local. The Southeast, not at all, as witnessed by the phenomenal percentage of southern men deemed 4F (unfit for any service) in World War II on account of profound malnutrition.

Local eating can be fun, and for things like produce and dairy actually makes a lot of sense. For starches (rice, wheat, etc) not at all outside of certain favoured areas. Whether it’s environmentally beneficial, I think that’s an open question because water transport uses so much less energy than land options. For example, it takes less energy to move rice to San Francisco in a ship, from *Thailand* than to truck it from the Central Valley. Trains are better than trucks, and big trucks are better than small trucks.

A “local food system” depends upon an awful lot of quite inefficient transportation. And let’s not forget that nearly 40% of the energy consumed in the entire food system is used for *cooking*.

As an agronomist I’d also add that growing food outside its primary area of adaptation tends to require a lot more energy, effort, and chemical usage than when it’s in its “sweet spot”. I can grow a lot of excellent sweet potatoes here with no inputs, but attempting that north of Toronto would not work so well.

Local eating wisely interpreted and applied makes a lot of sense and will probably be rather more delicious. As a religion it tends to lead to clusters of stupid decisions for both production and consumption.


Except for people with specific gluten problems (celiac, non-tropical sprue, etc) the whole anti-gluten, andti-wheat thing is generally silly, especially when framed as “healthier”. There are two very simple low-hanging fruit for healthier eating. #1: Eat more *vegetables*. Here in the States 80% of the population consumes one or fewer “servings” of vegetables and/or fruit, defined as 100 grams, and that includes potatoes! #2: More or less eliminate high-fructose corn syrup from the diet. The average American consumes about 155 lb of sugar annually, over half of which is HFCS. Simple, but for most people, unfortunately not at all *easy*. Just don’t ask ME to pay for the medical consequences of someone else’s terrible eating habits.


In the last week there was a bit of buzz about a project by Yan Wan from the University of Texas who, at the Smart America Expo, showed a WiFi enabled drone that *ding* could provide WiFi with a range of up to 5 miles! This was presented as a great step forward in disaster communications. The various articles made it seem like one of these devices would cover a 5 mile area with WiFi.

See for yourself by the viewing the video here.

Having worked in the fields of wifi and disaster response I decided to have a bit of a closer look. Was this really such a step forward and whatsmore, how was this achieved…

Firstly let’s have a look at the hardware, what components were used to build this. The aerial platform is a DJI F650 platform. It’s a nice of the shelf platform. The payload is a Ubiquiti Nanostation. Then there is some sort of servo which rotates the Nanostation. Wether or not the rotation is automatic and slaved to the location of the station the devices connects to or not isn’t clear.


The Nanostation is a widely used WiFi AP/CPE operating in the 5GHz band. I’ve used them on different occasions and we recently deployed some when working in the Philippines with Disaster Tech Lab. They’re a functional, cheap and cheerful type of device which theoretically can provide up to 150 Mbps on a point-to-point link of up to 15 km.

So in short this project has taken two of the shelf products and bolted them together.

Now for the technical bit; The Nanostation is designed to be one end of a point-to-point link and as with all point-to-point links range/distance is achieved by narrowing the antenna beam. While an omni-directional antenna will cover a 360 degree radius it’s range is limited. A directional antenna, like the one inside the Nanostation, takes the same transmission power (TX) but squeezes it into a narrow bundle. That way the range is much further but the signal radius is much smaller. Any device outside the range of the bundle will not be able to connect. Compare it to standing in a huge dark room and switching on a lightbulb versus a flashlight and you’ll get the picture. In addition the touted range of 5 miles is really not such a big deal. Most of the off the shelf WiFi point-to-point devices have a much longer range. I can recall building a link over 40 kilometers back in 2004 (I think) using homemade gear.

So going back to the implication of this aerial platform; we have a radio device with a narrow beam mounted onto what by definition is an unstable platform. Just ask anyone who has ever build a point-to-point link using masts with a lot of wind-sway how this can kill your connectivity.

Then there is the issue of backhaul; connecting two WiFi devices is great and all but it means very little without a source of internet backhaul. As this is an airborne device using a cable is a big no-no. So a form of wireless backhaul is called for. 3G/4G/LTE? All possible but it will add to the size and weight of the payload as well as require more battery power. In addition, if 3G/4G/LTE is available would that not negate the need for an airborne wifi device?  So satellite maybe? That would mean an ever bigger payload and battery drain. The last option is to consider using lots of these devices and building a WiFi mesh with one or more fixed end-points with internet connectivity. Now this would theoretically be a possibility but there are several factors to consider. using directional antennas on airborne/unstable platforms might cause dropped links. Then there is ones of the bigger drawbacks inherent to WiFi mesh networks; a drop in throughput with every hop (unless you use dual radio devices but that won’t really work here). Lastly there is the logistics and costs of building, deploying and operating a large number of these type of devices.

So considering all the above I can only conclude that it’s a case of much ado about nothing. It might look cool and get much ooh’s and aah’s from the hackathon crowd but there’s really no benefit in this product at all. The cost of the combined package comes to around $1300 (off-hand) with $1000 of that being the aerial platform. Compare that to about $150 for a length of scaffolding pipe, a roof mount kit and some clamps. The latter would also create a link with much more stability.



If you are looking at a workable application for aerial platform mounted WiFi then look at a combination of a 3G/4G/LTE backhaul device and a WiFi router with an omni directional antenna. That way you can create small bubbles of WiFi that can be flown into hard to reach areas and which are not dependent on a directional link for connectivity.

Even better rather than a means of connectivity provisioning use aerial platforms as sensor networks able to detect wifi or cellular signals transmitted by client devices (smartphones etc) pinpointing people in need.