The Taliban Already Had This Artist's "Anti-Drone Tent" Idea

Dutch artist Sarah van Sonsbeeck is showing an Anti-Drone Tent now at Mediamatic Fabriek in Amsterdam. It promises to shield users from aerial infrared surveillance by hiding them beneath the heat-reflective surface of a Mylar® space blanket. It's a neat idea. That's why the Taliban has been using it for years.

As Lieutenant Scott Murphy of the 172nd Infantry told the BBC in 2011, Taliban insurgents conducting attacks on Fortress Margha, a U.S. base near the Afghan-Pakistan border, routinely eluded Apache helicopters by hiding their heat signatures underneath these space blankets. They were literally crawling on the desert floor, through dry riverbeds, and up the 400-ft. ridge with the blankets draped over them, like children trying to convince you that a rug is haunted.

The blankets—also known as emergency blankets and commonly used to treat hypothermia and other forms of shock—retail for under a dollar, making them an incredibly cost-effective tool for guerrilla warfare.

All the way back in 2009, McClatchy reported on how the Taliban's space blanket gambit had effectively holed up U.S. coalition forces in Fortress Margha:

Wrapped in space blankets—thin foil sheets familiar to campers—to avoid detection by the thermal imaging cameras in the U.S. outpost, they zigzagged up the escarpment. Troops at the base said insurgents had come right up on the helicopter landing zone, fired their rockets, then disappeared "like ninjas into the night."

Fortress Margha, with its grenade launchers and mortars sticking out from behind sandbags and bulletproof windows on three watchtowers, is a safe redoubt for the American troops stationed there. Within its walls, soldiers play ice hockey and video games that imitate guerrilla warfare. [...]

The small U.S. base can be defended against as many as a thousand insurgents at once, confident American soldiers said. That sums up their dilemma, however: The fortress protects American troops, but it does little to help win a guerrilla war that's now in its eighth year and about to enter another violent summer.

The faltering U.S. and NATO efforts in eastern Afghanistan have in effect surrendered the countryside—village after village—to insurgent bands, many of them criminal gangs but some of them with weaponry and the backing of al Qaida.

With their Western foes securely corralled, insurgents freely terrorized the surrounding villages, extracting "zakat," an alms tax, from the local population, setting up illegal checkpoints, beheading local American allies, and then even flagrantly selling videotapes of those beheadings in the local market in Bermal.

No wonder the customer reviews for these blankets are so high.

(Guerrilla warriors are cautioned that hiding oneself with a space blanket will be less practical in the daylight hours or in warmer climates, as eventually body heat will begin to seep out around the edges, or worse, bring one to the brink of heat stroke.)

Still, Sarah van Sonsbeeck's tent is a cool, functional sculpture that'll probably make people think. Previously, she made a nice Faraday cage tote that blocks electromagnetic signals—perfect for secretly traveling with your burner cellphone(s), or shoplifting items tagged with anti-theft devices.

If you happen to be in Amsterdam, the "Drone Camping" exhibit will be at Mediamatic Fabriek until the end of the month.

[image via De Nederlandsche Bank & Annet Gelink gallery Amsterdam]

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