Drone Technology: A Boon or a Bane? How Should We Perceive Drones?
If you’ve seen the Star Wars films or if you’ve been reading the news lately, you’re likely familiar with drones. The term that used to be just a sci-fi staple years before is now a very common word. Before, the word “drone” used to be limitedly found in the tech section of newspapers. Now, it’s just everywhere. But what does this word really mean? How should you react to it?
Drones: An Overview
So what are drones? In general, the term can refer to various types of robots just like how the Star Wars movies and TV shows use it. However, in current real world use, it usually refers to unmanned or remotely controlled aerial vehicles. These vehicles vary in sizes, from toy-like helicopters to the bigger planes capable of carrying heavy loads. They are also referred to as remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Drones are commonly used in military and special operation applications but there are units used in non-military work such as the surveillance of tunnels and pipelines. There are also drone units intended for hobbyists or private individuals.
The Negative Publicity
Unless you talk to someone who has keen interest in military technology, most of the opinions you will get from people about drones will likely be not-so-good. Drones have been associated with the United States military attacks and NSA spying. Even with good intentions, the negative impact is difficult to address especially with the media hyping up the supposed dangers associated with drone technology. They have become heavily associated with warfare and alleged unjustifiable assaults.
Non-Military, “Acceptable” Drone Uses
Nevertheless, drones have been increasingly used in a number of non-military functions that seem to bring them closer to ordinary people. Some farmers in Japan, for example, are using Yamaha’s R-50 and RMAX drones to dust their crops. The following are some real-world non-military uses of drones that make the technology more acceptable to civilians and ordinary people:
- Deutsche Bahn of Germany said last year that they will be using drone technology to prosecute vandals who besmirch the company’s properties at night.
- Major online retailer Amazon is using drones to deliver sold items to customers. Some frown over the idea but many find it acceptable and convenient.
- The Japanese used drones to collect information about the damaged Fukushima Number 1 power plant and other devastated areas in the Tohoku region. These drones were the Honeywell’s T-Hawk and Northrop Grumman’s Global-Hawk.
- The World Wildlife Fund provided two FPV Raptor 1.6 drones to Nepal National Parks to monitor animals and prevent poachers.
- In Thailand, at the height of the political turmoil, news outlets made use of drones to get more comprehensive views of the protests.
- South Africa’s Kruger National Park madle use of a Seeker II drone to deal with rhino poachers. This drone was loaned by Denel Dynamics.
- During the Occupy Movement events, a drone called the Occucopter was used by journalist Tim Pool to gather live feeds.
- Drones are also being used by movie makers, real estate agents, farmers, as well as criminal defense lawyers. More than 60 groups in the United States are lobbying for the legality of drone use in the US according to data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics.
We tend to agree with the article published by the Centre for Research on Globalization about the doubled-edged sword nature of drone technology. On one hand, when used appropriately it is useful and efficient for defense, offense, and security applications. On the other, it can easily be abused by the government and even by private individuals. There are drone hobbyists or those who are just plain ill-intentioned enough to use DIY drones to snoop on other people or to do felonious acts with the aid of technology.
Nevertheless, people are not without the option to set up protection against drones. There are companies and groups that commit themselves to countering the threats of drones. We wrote about one of them in a previous post, an Oregon company that seeks to market anti-drone technology.
Drones are not all about the threats and paranoia-inducing bad publicity. When used properly, they afford great conveniences. It’s just a matter of proper use and regulation. Many jurisdictions have specific laws regarding drone operation and ownership although some tend to be very limiting. Drone technology is the future. Instead of trying to deny its use and technological advancement, it would be better to embrace it and to craft regulations to prevent abuse while maximizing proper use.