How do you feel about drones?
Drones, the more popular name being used today for ‘Unmanned Aerial Vehicles’ (UAVs), are remotely controlled aerial vehicles, controlled by humans or flown with the use of software to follow a pre-destined flight path. They are basically machines with cameras, sensors and GPS technology that fly through the air without a pilot inside.
Many people flying drones today are hobbyists, using them for recreational purposes, but they were first used by the military for anti-aircraft target practice and intelligence gathering. In 2002 the CIA used a drone (a much larger airplane-size one compared to the UAVs most people are familiar with) to carry a Hellfire air-to-surface missile in a botched attack in Afghanistan targeting Osama bin Laden – and although they missed their target, the attack was a turning point for the military and its use today.
But with the advent of ‘consumer’ drones flying all over the place, drones might be getting out of control. Safety concerns are serious, specifically midair collisions and loss of control of the craft. Last year in Quebec a woman was injured by a drone that fell from the sky and struck her. And in Ottawa last May fighter jets were dispatched when two airplanes reported a drone flying too close to an airport landing route. There are some rules in Canada for the commercial operations of drones, but the recreational use of drones has been fundamentally unrestricted so far.
Drones can be of great benefit to society by being able to travel to areas deemed too dangerous or impossible for people to get to, such as helping to fight fires and for search and rescue operations – but their use is also growing in the area of photography, videography and even delivery services. Increasing use of drones in commercial and recreational areas have given rise to many concerns, such as the ‘paparazzi’ and others who have been crossing the lines of privacy by using them to take pictures of people in their homes or in private locations.
They are even being employed to smuggle drugs and contraband into prisons, using small drones to illegally deliver things like cannabis over the walls of prisons under the cover of darkness.
In our consumer driven society the idea of goods being delivered via drones is grabbing a lot of attention, mostly due to its novelty. Just this past November a New Zealand couple became the first in the world to receive a drone delivery when Domino’s Pizza flew a pizza order to their home. Domino’s claims the service is faster than delivery cars with the food arriving ‘warm and delicious’.
Amazon has been developing their ‘Prime Air’ program with a drone delivery system designed to get packages to customers in 30 minutes or less instead of their 2-day shipping service. They have already delivered an Amazon Fire TV and a bag of popcorn to customers in Cambridge in the UK and said it took 13 minutes for the customers to get the packages via their own specially designed drone. Expansion of the program into the US has been challenging because of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations which prohibits commercial drone deliveries. Drones must stay within a pilot’s line of sight and cannot fly directly over people. But the FAA is working on developing their rules in order to test their use for things such as urgent deliveries in hard-to-reach areas.
If you watched Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl 51’s halftime show and wondered how the shimmering light formations appeared in the sky behind her, it wasn’t magic. The eye-catching display that first looked like twinkling stars, before transforming into an American flag and then turning into the Pepsi logo, was actually 300 of Intel’s Shooting Star drones that were choreographed and recorded earlier in the week.
The use of drones certainly has the potential to be of great use in some areas – but drones are starting to buzz around everywhere, like bees who just had their hive destroyed and seem to be out of control. It makes sense to ensure proper laws and regulations are in place before serious injuries or crimes take place.
Do you fly drones? If so, have you been using them responsibly? Have you been a victim of a drone spying on you or have witnessed one? How do you feel about drones? Let us know!