Drone Controversy Continues

April 4, 2013
A large part of the population—in the US and probably abroad—is concerned about drones, and their numbers and efforts are growing.

In the “News” section of our April issue, we highlight a portion of the jobs that are expected to be added as a result of the uptick of unmanned-aerial-system (UAS) development and deployment throughout the US. By 2025, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) expects more than 100,000 new jobs to be created nationally. Amid the continuing economic slump afflicting the US, new jobs are a sign of recovery and hope. And in many situations, such as forest fires, drones can be critical to containment and even rescue efforts. Yet a storm has erupted over the use of drones, due to concerns over privacy, public safety, political corruption, government abuse, human-rights violations, and more.

Simply put, their small size and stealthy nature make it possible for drones to go places undetected. They do not need a declaration of war to cross a border and take out an enemy. In fact, they make it possible for leaders to commit acts of war without taking any credit for them—which also means that such acts may not have to be justified to the public.

On the home front, drones are expected to become nearly ubiquitous—eliminating civilian privacy in the process. Individuals worry that we will get used to living in a constant state of surveillance, potentially surrendering our privacy for promises of safety and progress.

No matter what the intended use is for drones, the fear is that the people who have the power to control them are abusing that power and will continue to do so. Given the history of humanity, that is a well-founded fear. It also reflects the feelings—or suspicions—of much of today’s inactive voting-eligible population in the US. These individuals largely say that they feel far removed from politicians, who they suspect answer to their supporters (campaign donors), lobbyists, and big businesses instead of serving the general population.

In the article, “Can Voters Fight Domestic Drones At The Ballot Box?” which was posted on The Atlantic on April 1, author Conor Friedersdorf quotes Glenn Greenwald, a columnist for UK publication The Guardian. Greenwald, Friedersdorf says, “argues that opposing a future of ubiquitous drone surveillance by the government ‘may be one area where an actual bipartisan/trans-partisan alliance can meaningfully emerge, as most advocates working on these issues with whom I’ve spoken say that libertarian-minded GOP state legislators have been as responsive as more left-wing Democratic ones in working to impose some limits.’” Friedersdorf adds: “Federal limits on drone surveillance, like the warrant requirement before Congress, ought to be aggressively advocated by everyone who perceives the costs of failure.”

It seems that the drone controversy, which became a hot topic over the last couple of years, has continued to gain momentum. Drones will be widely deployed in US airspace in 2015. For the first time since cell towers were met with a “not in my backyard” response, a segment of the microwave industry is mired in controversy. It will be interesting to see how it pans out, as the result will be largely symbolic of how much this country is willing to accept technology’s place in citizens’ everyday lives. Should some of the current anti-drone legislation efforts prove successful, we also may not get quite the booming market that we expected.

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