The heated debate over drone use continues. Many are in favor of ramping up drone use and point to the military and economic benefits. But other groups are hesitant about increased drone activity and concerned about the privacy and security issues involved.
The actual definition of a drone—what it is and what it does—often creates some confusion. Drones are typically referred to as unmanned aerial vehicles – UAVs. Drones are not piloted by an onboard person, but controlled remotely by a pilot or computer. Their functionality can vary from aerial cameras to weaponized machines in the military.
There are several benefits that are driving the drone market to an estimated $91 billion within the next ten years. The first to point to would be reducing the number of military personnel at risk in combat. With drones performing strike missions overseas, the need for boots on the ground is decreasing and putting fewer people in harm’s way.
The lower cost of drones is also an advantage. Regardless of functionality, drones are cheaper to purchase and operate than traditional airplanes. Outside of commercial traveling, drones should see an increase in demand from the transportation industry.
Also relative to traditional airplanes, drones can maintain more operational hours. Without the need for a human pilot, drones can stay operational longer – whether operated by a computer or with the transition of remotely-based pilots. Drones are proving to be more effective and efficient.
The efficiency of drones can also be seen in delivery services. Amazon is touting its proposed Amazon Prime Air services, which claims customer delivery within 30 minutes. As drone use surges, it could disrupt the transportation sector and cause delivery prices to decrease.
Of course, there are downsides to the increased use of drones. The first negative aspect pointed to is the privacy infringement they present. Attaching a camera to an aerial vehicle and flying it around can cause quite a scandal if people are unknowingly caught on tape minding their own business on their own properties. California bill, SB 142, is in the Senate for final approval. If passed, it would cause a trespassing violation for flying a drone less than 350 feet above private property without consent.
Safety is also a chief concern when discussing drone use. North Dakota has recently become the first state to legalize ‘weaponized’ drones for police use. According to the Daily Beast, it’s now legal for law enforcement in North Dakota to fly drones with non-lethal weapons – tasers, tear gas, rubber bullets, etc. One local sheriff says the police need to use drones for surveillance in order to obtain a warrant in the first place. This also calls into question an individual’s rights to privacy.
Another concern regarding drone use is the security of the drone itself. If drones are susceptible to a cyber-attack, they could become a danger, especially if there are weaponized drones flying the airwaves.
As the discussion continues, and drones gain increasing support and demand, the privacy and security issues they bring up must be kept in mind. The controls necessary to protect civil liberties and privacy shouldn’t be neglected to allow drones to continue spreading their wings.