Drones are pretty sweet. For those with a keen interest in amateur aeronautical adventure, remote controlled drones offer hours and hours of fun (depending on how long their battery endures). Strap a camera onto your drone, and you can get some stunning panorama photographs. Some can even be directed by an app on your iPhone.
Drones have the distinct ability to go where humans can't, and that goes for natural disaster areas. If drones are set up or roaming around areas at high risk of natural disaster, or just in general, they can send signals to damage control units of a change in the immediate environment. This will help alert the public to any threats, and cue emergency units to the scene.
Drones are being celebrated as what could be the most humane war kit in the history of mankind. They can take down military opponents without endangering those in control, and their precision and destructive capacities can be perfected way past those of humans. But the Huffington Post, for one, cried foul, on three counts:
Drones have been used to take down suspected terrorists without a trial
They're still not as accurate as they need to be, and
They're used in what are called "double taps" that not only kill threats but first responders that show up on the scene
The New York Police Department has been concerned for a while now that in the hands of the wrong people, drones could actually be used to carry out small- and medium-scale terrorist attacks. "We've seen some video where the drone was flying at different targets along the route and very accurately hitting the targets with the paintball," said one representative of the force.
When you talk about drones, you have to talk about privacy, and the invasion thereof. That the government, official body, or even your neighbor could be controlling a drone with a camera attached to it and capturing your every move from above is not just a little distressing. "The thought of government drones buzzing overhead and constantly monitoring the activities of law-abiding citizens runs contrary to the notion of what it means to live in a free society," said Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa. Imagine having a legion of little Big Brothers twittering their helicopter propellers constantly, everywhere, keeping their little camera eyes on you.
Not only that, but the government and law enforcement use of drones without reasonable cause might infringe on 4th Amendment rights, namely that of unwarranted search and seizure. Police aren't allowed to pull that without a search warrant.
On December 12th, an errant drone came within 20 feet of a passenger jet plane as it was making its landing at Heathrow International Airport in London. The pilot, and the investigators compiling a report after the fact, deemed the helicopter posed a "serious risk of collision." That an unmonitored drone was able to get that close to an aircraft carrying civilians human does not bode well for drone-plane interactions in the future. More air control needs to be put in place to prevent another incident like this one.
Back in December of 2013, Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, revealed his plans for rolling out delivery drones as part of the Amazon customer service scheme. Back then, he predicted the fleet would take to the air in 5 years' time. That might be a little optimistic, but the prospect of have flying bots deliver your packages in the blink of an eye is very real.
We tend to think of drones as being these big, clunky, conspicuous, metallic gadgets. But engineers have been able to reduce the size of a drone to a mere bee, therefore making them all the more difficult to spot, and much harder to protect from. These nano-sized nuisances can do a lot of good (e.g. pollinating flowers in a field) but can also be used for purposes of acquiring information. The Supreme Court still hasn't made up its mind as to whether drones filming outside, in "public space," is in violation of any rights, so the area remains a gray one.
It's a common misconception that drone pilots, because of their proximity to the killing, aren't affected by the deaths of their targets. Many pilots will tell you that having to see the consequences of their drone activities can bring about just as much psychological anguish as if they were on the ground performing deeds of war. That said, many war experts and scholars believe that drone attacks could in fact desensitize pilots to the realities of death, and reduce bloodshed to a videogame reality.
In November, the Los Angeles Police Department acquired two drones, neither of which they've flown. Law enforcers in Delhi, India are planning on deploying a fleet of night-vision drones in the hopes that they'll be able to warn cops about sexual assault and other crimes as they're happening to quicken response time. Drones could be a good thing for the boys in blue: it'll help them locate and stop crime before it can start. Then again, many also see this as another way in which law enforcement officers are being vested with all kinds of military-grade, out-of-their-league equipment and an expansion of their powers.
Drones on farms can help fertilize, water, and continuously scan crops and identify blights or other issues in the fields. Farms can sometimes be massive in size, and maintenance for that kind of land is burdensome and requires many, many hands. Drones could assist with much of the grunt work.
Taking Amazon's dream and blowing it up to huge proportions, delivery drones could be used to facilitate a totally rental economy. If goods can be delivered instantaneously and then returned instantaneously, who needs to actually own anything in the old sense of the word? Everything from books to shovels to cars could one day be dropped in by drone for a few hours to a few days, and no one would be any poorer. Sharing is caring; droning is owning.
Another pro for drones is that they can deliver emergency medical services to people in dire need of them. Whether that's after an earthquake and victims need attention immediately to tend to their wounds, or an elderly person has fallen and needs assistance getting up, a drone can be there. Drones, unlike ambulances, don't need to deal with street traffic.
Robots are artificial structures that can be outfitted with prehensile grips, appendages, and a host of other fancy attributes that drones aren't always equipped with. Drones, on the other hand, usually have flying capabilities that robots lack. When hybridized together, the robot-drone would be a very advanced creation: a wonderful combination far greater than the sum of its parts.
News reporters and photographers put themselves in danger all the time: when they embed themselves behind enemy lines, report on a hostile faction, attend violent protests, etc. Some are taken hostage, others are brutally killed. Drones, on the other hand, can be used to access the same news stories, but at a much reduced risk. Aerial shots as well as closeups can be achieved using drone photographing technology, and streams of live footage can be bounced back to the news source for cutting and editorializing.