What does a company with close ties to the Chinese military want with a robotic, crop-dusting, mini-helicopter? And why was Yamaha willing to sell nine of the things, in violation of export control laws?Those are some of the questions being asked in Asia this week, after more than 200 Japanese police raided Yamaha offices on Monday."Investigators seized the helicopter, a manually controlled RMAX L181 type, after Nagoya customs last month halted the shipment, citing insufficient documentation," the Asahi Shimbun reports.
They said the helicopter... has GPS and an autopilot device... As long as it is programmed beforehand with flight routes and other data and by activating the GPS, the unmanned craft can continue to fly even when it is outside radio control.While the helicopter was designed for crop-dusting, these features allow it to be used for military reconnaissance as well as spreading biochemical weapons, officials say.Yamaha officials admitted to investigators that the helicopter was equipped with functions restricted by the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Control Law.In Japan, more than 1600 of the robo-copters are used to spray crops. Here in the States, the RMAXs are equipped with cameras, to shoot movies and TV commercials. That's what Yamaha says the nine China-bound drones are for.I have no idea whether or not to believe the company. I'm sure Yamaha didn't intend to give robotic bioweapons-sprayers to China's military. (For that matter, I have a hard time believing Beijing would want to add robotic bioweapons-sprayers to its arsenal.) But a little unmanned, hovering scout? The People's Liberation Army could find some way to use that, I'm sure.(Big ups: CS)