Drone overkill: Where do we draw the line between practical and unnecessary?
Unmanned aerial “drones” have been a hot topic the last several years, with new commercial developments being announced almost daily. Some of the use cases are extremely practical – such as using the crafts for aerial surveillance for anything from pipeline maintenance to search and rescue operations or police surveillance, or to aid in watering or dusting of crops, being used to fight wildfires, etc. Most of these solutions are extremely useful and can aid in keeping humans safe while the machines do the dirty work.
However, recently the news headlines are becoming more absurd. The Amazon package delivery drone concept created quite a buzz early on in the year, and has resulted in other companies latching onto this idea as well, such as Domino’s DomiCopter. I also stumbled across an article from CNN discussing drones being used to deliver bottles of champagne to guests at a Las Vegas rooftop pool party. While this is an interesting, novelty concept for the wealthy, it seems a strange way to utilize such technology. We have to ask ourselves: How practical is this? Do we really want drones buzzing all over the place delivering pizzas and packages and Dom Perignon? After the initial “coolness” factor wears off (not to mention the inevitable car crashes resulting from people ogling passing drones), do we really want that to become a daily reality?
While the use of drones for personal purposes is still being debated by the FAA and the court of constitutional privacy, I think the idea of using them for capturing (both hobbyist and professional) aerial photography and video can be stunning. However, folks trying to do just that are now banned from using any type of unmanned platform in any of the U.S.’s national parks. That being said, there is certainly a safety risk associated with amateurs flying these drones in public spaces, and the damage and harm that can be caused from crashing them.
There have been many reports of near-collisions between drones and other drones as well as drones and other aircraft, such as helicopters. This poses a real problem, and as the drone usage continues to rise, there are sure to be more incidents like this.
The availability of these high-tech platforms, ranging from a few hundred dollars to thousands, is quite futuristic, with shops popping up in places such as New York City, not to mention the booming online marketplace. Almost anyone can now get their hands on a flying contraption to be used for multiple purposes. Though mostly benign, government and law enforcement are also wary of this technology being used for sinister purposes, which is certainly possible if put into the wrong hands.
All in all, the future of commercial unmanned aviation is still unclear, but with countless companies latching onto the idea of incorporating unmanned systems, the opportunities are limitless. Let’s just hope we implement more practical applications over the novelty uses.
Please feel free to share your comments on this topic.