Ever since Parrot AR Drone was showcased and rewarded at the 2010 CES Innovations, the popularity and demand for these flying contraptions went spiralling. The product sired a countless number of drone enthusiast, and with the new innovative features being introduced to these devices, it was more than clear that the hype train would neither stop nor slow down any time soon. Unfortunately, the looming shadow of controversy steadily followed, as many started to view drones as nothing more than an airborne menace.
Although they were initially designed to be entertaining, harmless and useful, the vacancy for the creative freedom they carry was more than enough to lit the spark of mischief and tarnish their stellar reputation. Through innovation, the scope of their capabilities was pushed even further, and drones are being utilized on the field for so much more than aerial photography.
However, the question remains, can they do more harm than good? Here we will take a deep dive into the issue and try to figure out whether the positives are outweighing the negatives.
Drones are Used for Public Safety
Drones help us save lives and combat fire catastrophes. By utilizing the thermal camera, firefighters can pinpoint the most hazardous fire sites, even through thick smoke, and plan their approach accordingly. Furthermore, Aerones, a drone company based in Latvia, has developed a firefighting drone that can reach the height of 984 feet, making it an ideal solution for extinguishing flames in burning buildings. Not only that, but drones can also reach places that are difficult to access by fire trucks, and as such firefighters can be more effective.
Aside from the fire department, drones are employed for a variety of different jobs. They were used to restore electricity, in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, as it was too dangerous for linemen to attempt these feats in large wreckage areas. Another example is the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey when drones were used to aid search and rescue missions, as well as for damage assessment, in Huston.
Quite recently, it was announced that we might use drones for medical supplies delivery, and this test project is monitored by the Federal Aviation Administration. If successful it will be a significant step forward for the medical system and patients in remote living areas.
Drones are Used for Invasion of Privacy
Due to the open-skies policy, there is nothing that prevents the drones from flying across the populated areas. Although it was already established how these devices could be our trusted allies, it needs to be acknowledged that they pose a risk to our privacy and security.
One of the main reasons why the general public is not too alarmed about it is because celebrities are mostly pestered and recorded, which was the case way before drones were invented. However, drones with high fidelity cameras are budget-friendly nowadays, and as time goes on micro-drones will also become quite common. In other words, drones that we can hardly detect could invade our households, or record us outside. To make matters worse, researchers argue that there were a few incidents of drone spying and surveillance.
In the Netherlands, police tired to implement a sort of out of the box approach to handle the issue. They trained eagles to take down drones mid-aid. Unfortunately, it was an unreliable long terms solution, as training these birds of prey turned out to be too expensive. Moreover, eagles had a sort of a temper, so if they missed the drone, they would get frustrated and go after something else in the near vicinity, which would also become a safety problem. US Air Force, on the other hand, attempted something similar, but instead of eagles, they are using falcons.
Another possible scenario we should be concerned about is cyber attacks. It would not be too difficult for hackers to hijack the drone remotely and as mentioned some drones are hard to detect due to their size. The solution, however, is far from optimal, and yet unavoidable at the same time. The plan is to use system identification and authentication, to separate rogue drones from legal ones. The problem would persist, as this would not make drones hacking proof. Luckily, this did not happen yet, but it would be wrong to assume it is just a speculation.
It’s undeniable that drones can cause harm either directly or indirectly, but then again so can other irreplaceable technology we use on a daily basis. We couldn’t possibly image our lives without phones, or the internet, yet all of these are used to commit crimes or pull pranks. The question is whether drones will become just as essential or irreplaceable to receive the same treatment.