Katie Lobosco (2014) discusses the fact that more and more people have been reporting drone encounters while on typical flight paths. Last month alone, “41 pilots reported seeing a drone, or unmanned aircraft during flight,” up from the five reported in April of this year, and for “a total of 193 incidents” reported between the end of February and the beginning of November (Lobosco, 2014, p. 1). In addition to the rising number of drone sightings, pilots have also started reporting the necessity of course alterations as the utilization of this new technology increases (Lobosco, 2014). The resulting rise in drone usage has prompted concern by the FAA regarding the inadequacies of current rules; while they are currently legal for use by hobbyists, unless a business has a permit for their use they are not allowed to use them (Lobosco, 2014). Drones run by the government, fire fighters, or law enforcement are likewise legal (Lobosco, 2014).
The increasing trend of drone usage is one that should be of concern to the average individual due to their ability to record video and images and their lack of permit requirements for most individuals. The pricacy violations that may result from the use of this technology are staggering, and could ultimately rival a situation like those depicted in Orwellian literature. In 1984 it was not possible to make a move without the government or a spy for the government, reporting your actions; in fact, to have a moment’s peace away from prying eyes was a virtual impossibility (Orwell, 2003).
Most individuals, when focusing on the topic of drones perceive this technology in one of two ways, either as a tool to be used negatively by the government, or as a fun toy that allows for the creation of all types of videos; a popular choice as of late is the use of the technology to make it appear as though individuals have the ability to fly, taking on superhero proportions. In spite of these two conflicting opinions, most individuals fail to view this technology in the same context regardless of its use. The ability of a device to spy upon an individual without their knowledge or consent should be a topic of concern. With use of Google Glass, at least, the individual knows that someone has the potential to record them; not so with drone usage. Take this aspect and couple it with the fact that the technology is now being utilized in such a manner as that it would work to potentially compromise the safety of others. The fact that drones were first simply being seen and are now causing issues with the flight paths of commercial airlines should be at least as disconcerting as the very technology itself. The utilization of a drone by a malicious individual could result in a host of negative consequences.
Looking to the worst case scenario, consider this: a terrorist, under the guise of being a simple hobbyist, could turn a drone into a bomb, sending it into the current flight path of an aircraft and then detonating, causing damage to the plane, potential loss of engines, and the potential for loss of life. The resulting action would ground planes the country over while an investigation was conducted. While the FAA is working on increasing regulation, these changes will not even start to be discussed until the end of the year and the resulting decisions will take even longer to implement and enforce. If all hobbyists are likewise required to register their drones and get permits, who is to say that all individuals will obtain those permits when to fail to do so would provide them with greater freedom?
It is clear that this technology is disconcerting and further investigation regarding its uses and practical applications should have been undertaken prior to releasing it unregulated to the general populace.
- Dean, M., & Orwell, G. (2003). 1984. Harlow: Pearson Education.
- Lobosco, K. (2014). Drones are almost crashing into planes. CNNMoney. Retrieved 29 November 2014, from http://money.cnn.com/2014/11/26/technology/drones-planes/index.html