Attack of the Drones

Like it or not, drones are going to be standard operating equipment for many businesses in the next twenty years. Once approval is met for self-driving vehicles how soon would it be for a rival for ride sharing services to appear? As with any new technology it will take time before people are willing to accept it.

The industry is poised for a boom, with drones being investigated to complete many different tasks. In the US, retailing giant Wal-Mart is testing out the use of drones for stock inventory control. The impact of this could do many things:

  • Job losses and creation
  • Possible lower prices
  • Increase productivity
  • Safer work environment
  • Higher skilled workforce

There are many positives and negatives, however if tests prove that it will not be beneficial to the company then it most likely will not proceed. But then it seems relatively unlikely that it won’t. When you look at the unmanned checkout populating the major retailers now, these are a drone of sorts – accept that the customer is doing the work; I wonder if some sort of discount should be applied when I scan my own items? The tests completed before these were brought into operation was, will the money we save on wages override the increase in theft (intentional or otherwise)?

When drones become an accepted part of society, the job sector that will have the highest attrition rate will be the transport industry. Being a delivery driver may become a thing of the past. The first to depart would be small parcel deliveries. Imagine this, letters are delivered by hand, our streets have been mapped and global positioning satellites are near pinpoint. It wouldn’t be that hard to take posties off their bikes and into a warehouse flying drones to deliver the mail. The jobs would still be there, up until the work becomes automated and a program takes over. If this all seems a bit far fetched – sorting of mail used to be done by hand, now a machine does most of the work.

I think it will be a few years away, when we see drones delivering the mail, sorting stock inventory or acting as cab drivers – for flying drones the noise would need to be sorted out. But if I could save $20 I know I’d be the first one to jump into the driver-less car, after all that is exactly how ride sharing services are crushing the taxi industry.

Title Image: Google Self Driving Car by Ben (2013)

Dead or Alive; Drones and Surveillance

robocop by Roland Molnár (CC BY-SA 2.0)
robocop by Roland Molnár
(CC BY-SA 2.0)

Do we fear for the police state, that may come with overuse of drones? After all, ‘…we are rapidly moving toward a future in which a majority of aircraft will be unmanned.’ (Villasenor 2014, p.235).

Drones… they are possibly without doubt the big bad scary of the surveillance landscape in modern times. Although drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) have been in development since the 17th century (Villasenor 2014, p.235). Why is it though that they have become this feared icon of surveillance? Perhaps it is because they can literally be anywhere. From high in the sky armed military drones, to the miniscule.

Not only that, but the user can be anywhere – certainly true for the larger military drones, and quite possibly – with the current price tags, controlled by anyone. Which in essence is the problem, at least with a fixed camera there is a possibility of knowing where to access the footage if required, but a UAV? Without seeing the user, it is practically impossible.

Sweeping the negatives under the proverbial carpet, UAV’s do have many real world applications:

‘…search and rescue, news reporting, crop spraying, air quality monitoring, after-the-fact crime scene investigation, surveying, disaster response, wildlife tracking, research into the dynamics of violent storms, spotting wildfires, filmmaking, and traffic monitoring.’ (Villasenor 2014, p.236)

Drone/mountain rescue van by John Mills (CC BY 2.0)
Drone/mountain rescue van by John Mills (CC BY 2.0)

Even these as listed by Villasenor are not absolutes and it is worth mentioning that drones can and do go anywhere that a visual inspection is needed and which may be inaccessible by people. In fact, most articles posted about drones will list several pro-uses for drones, which demonstrates that there needs to be an understanding of how this technology can be beneficial. On the ethics of drone uses West and Bowman state:

‘Citizens doubt that the benefits of drones outweigh the risks to privacy; the deterrent effect on illegal behavior claimed by advocates may be less likely than the chilling effect on lawful activity.’ (West and Bowman 2016, p.653-4)

It seems to be a ‘not in my backyard’ scenario. However, in Australia drones are being used and trailed by the police.

Perhaps it is their use in the military that has people afraid of what may happen as they, ‘…are the signature weapon of modern warfare, as more than 90 nations use them for reconnaissance, intelligence collection, and targeting.’ (West and Bowman 2016, p.650). The key word there is ‘targeting’; if I see a drone and feel that it is too close, would I feel targeted?

NYPD Drones by Bit Boy (CC BY 2.0)
NYPD Drones by Bit Boy (CC BY 2.0)

(CLICK – for more on this protest campaign)

As drones are a relatively, in public accessibility, new technology the law has taken time to catch up, and for the most part responsibility of use relies solely on the sensibility of users.

For example, if a drone flew into your backyard, do I have the right to destroy it? If I did what would the consequences be? Should I have the relative right to privacy in my own backyard?

In a slightly different example, a family is in the park with a drone – I can see the user and I can see the drone, most likely it is recording. Do I care? Not really it is public space, I generally don’t feel the right to privacy.

In both of these scenarios privacy was the key word, a person should have the general right to some privacy and the home is usually paramount. Personally, I think it comes down to just one saying, ‘don’t be a dickhead’; and use UAV’s wisely before the government sweeps in and does it for you. Pocket Bikes anyone?

References

Villasenor, J 2014, ‘“Drones” and the Future of Domestic Aviation’, Proceedings Of The IEEE, 102, 3, pp. 235-238, Applied Science & Technology Source.

West, J, & Bowman, J 2016, ‘The Domestic Use of Drones: An Ethical Analysis of Surveillance Issues’, Public Administration Review, 76, 4, pp. 649-659, Health Business Elite.