While on a recent trip over in Britain I was surprised at the amount of media coverage that is currently being dedicated to drones, or quadcopters, as some folks prefer to call them. Once the forte of the military, drones are now evident in a wide range of industries and everyday life. While they have been fairly commonplace in the States for quite some time now, it seems that the Brits have not long been introduced to them, and they have not exactly gone down quite as well as some may have expected. I even noticed that certain members of the public seem to getting themselves whipped up into an unnecessary frenzy.
During my time in Britain I learned that there had been, just like in the States a couple of years ago, numerous recent serious near-miss incidents involving drones over the skies of Great Britain, which has led to the British Airline Pilots Association voicing concerns regarding the safety of their cloud-dominated skies and the deadly consequences if an RC drone were to come into contact with a passenger plane. It is claimed that there have been numerous near-misses at London Heathrow, London Stanstead and Manchester airports in recent months due to a lack of awareness and consideration for those operating the compact flying machines.
However, just when I thought that drones could not get a much worse reputation, it appears that people in the UK are now using drones to smuggle contraband into jails, including cell phones, narcotics and USB drives. It is claimed that in 2013 there were no such incidents, two in 2014 and thirty-three in 2015. This sudden emergence of drones on the mainstream market quickly led to changes in legislation regarding the flying of drones in public spaces, however, they have continued to grow more and more popular amongst British consumers.
I must admit that I was a little shocked at the overly-hostile reception that the Brits have towards quadcopters considering the numerous benefits that they provide in everyday life, most of which I am sure the average guy on the street is just not aware of.
However, they really do provide some important services; for example, they are utilized in search and rescue operations and even the delivery of medical supplies to remote regions that are notoriously difficult to reach. I cannot be argued these services are essential and they enrich and even prolong the lives of individuals.
They have also ensured that consumers will one day benefit from the super-fast delivery system that is Amazon Prime Air, enabling packages to be delivered to customers in as little as thirty minutes; for those who are keen to see a reduction in transport emissions, this really has to be a great piece of news.
While what has been revealed in Britain is a cause for concern, surely the responsibility rests on the individual; there are a lot of people who fly quadcopters responsibly in their spare time or on vacation, and who do not violate any aviation laws or impose any significant danger to members of the general public.
One area in which there is a greater need of attention however, is that of the privacy of the individual. This is somewhat complex due to the fact that, while we should be striving for innovation of new technologies, we should not be impacting on, or violating, the right of the individual to privacy; as an American citizen this is something that is extremely important to me. It is also perhaps not as straightforward to impose privacy laws relating to drones as easily as it is to implement laws governing aviation.
As we are all aware, there are some drones that have the ability to linger overhead and engage in persistent surveillance of individuals or groups of individuals. There is the distinct possibility that this could lead to unwanted surveillance becoming commonplace, with no recognized laws that acknowledge or attempt to stop this intrusion.
Personally, I am a huge advocate for greater use of drones, especially relating to the aforementioned ways in which they have benefited some of the most vulnerable people in the world; there is also the potential to make even better use of them, we really have only just touched upon the possibilities that they could potentially provide in the future.
However, we need to ensure that we acknowledge that they can also be somewhat intrusive and open to being abused. Therefore, it is time for governments to implement laws to govern the use of drones, while at the same time, ensuring that adequate money is available to be invested in this exciting and innovative technology.