Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Drones: The Latest Technological Surge

I've been perusing the internet quite a bit lately on social media sites like Reddit and Digg and I am finding a lot of articles on drones. Most of us think of the military drones that fly over Afghanistan or Iraq either collecting intelligence or zeroing in bombs on potential enemies. The one pictured above is from the United Kingdom.

These types of drones have been very effective in the war on terrorism and in monitoring strategic areas throughout the world. I am sure that many soldiers' lives have been saved with the development of this technology. Countless civilian lives have been saved as well because the cameras mounted on these drones are able to see close up who is on the ground or if any innocent civilians are potentially inside of target buildings.

In the Hands of the Layperson

It seems that the general public is quickly embracing drone technology. Over the past summer in California a firefighting plane had to abort a fire retardant dump because someone was flying a drone in its airspace. The owner was just shooting curious footage, however, his interference had a huge impact in the tough battle of containing forest fires. The questions of airspace violations and privacy rights begin to surface with this incident. The questions also arise of whether the average American should be able to fly these drones wherever they deem fit.

Farmers have begun seeing the wonderful benefits of drone technology. There are a couple models currently in production that are able to fly over crop fields and monitor water levels in plants, reveal where higher concentrations of pests occur, and provide very area-specific information of which areas of land are more fertile than others. This allows a farmer to pinpoint exactly what is needed to produce the highest yields and where this focus needs to be centered.

This YouTube video kind of gives you an idea of the early stages of drone technology that has already been fast developing outside of the U.S. and is now being adopted here on our soil. These types of drones can be highly beneficial because they promote the highest yields of food production possible and can reinforce good safety standards previously unable to be achieved through timeless conventional methods.

Breaking the Law

In general, the use of drones are having a positive impact in environments where they are responsibly used. But, just like any other technology, there is always someone who wants to use something for ill gains. This, of course, drives controversy and opens up new doors. Breaking the law using a drone isn't exactly something we have ever heard about, however, local police forces are tapping into this new technology. Here is a video that begins to give you an idea of what to expect in the near future:

It would certainly make sense for police departments to invest in drones because it has a wide variety of benefits. The use of expensive helicopters flown by one or two people would no longer be necessary and it would save a lot of money. If a suspect can be constantly followed and monitored then this increases the safety of officers. And the obvious benefit, as well, is that the lawbreaker will not escape as easily as he or she might while running from a police helicopter.

Some Things to Think About

Although I am completely supportive of any technologies that will help police officers do their jobs more effectively and safely, there are some issues to consider which I believe will arise from the use of drones.

Simply as a starting point, officers have already been using K9 dogs for many years and they have been very effective in fighting crime. Many illegal drug busts have been attributed to the keen senses of these dogs and they have been fierce protectors of their owners. Deep relationships have developed between officers and their dogs so much so that K9 dogs are fully recognized as police officers themselves. It is deemed first-degree murder to kill one of these dogs and any fallen comrades receive full funeral honors.

Just as K9 dogs have been a strong asset to crime prevention, so too will the use of drones. A computerized robot controlled by an officer with an Ipad-type device will be able to "sniff" out potential suspects or follow confirmed criminals with ease. The portable "eye in the sky" will prove invaluable in the success rates of law enforcement. The questions I would propose for your contemplation are:

  • How much authority could a drone achieve?
  • In time, would they not be given the exact same rights to function as police officers just as K9 dogs already do?
  • It is not too much of a stretch to think that these drones will someday soon be mounted with either guns or some sort of debilitating weapon to stop potential suspects or criminals?
  • And, in light of the events in Ferguson, Missouri and other places like Dayton, Ohio, how will police force be reexamined when it is performed by a drone instead of a pistol in the hands of law officers?

I believe each of these questions bring up legitimate points for discussion and debate. We will have to address these issues as citizens sitting on a jury in your local governments. Technology can be great, however, everything has a price and boundaries do need to be set.

A Brazen Look Into a Scary Future

I want to finish up this article with a glance into a very real future. I think by now most people have already seen the movie Minority Report starring Tom Cruise. I'd like you to watch this video clip as either a reminder of what this movie portrays as future law enforcement, or, if you've never seen the movie...well, check this out and see what you think!

I invite your comments in the box below, as I am always looking for different points of view. Thank you for your feedback, I value it dearly.

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