Drones are a technology that is sometimes referred to as an unmanned aerial system, or UAS. Although drones have been available for some time, is was not until the 2010s that their popularity began to increase exponentially. Many drones carry communications systems, digital imaging technologies, and other components which make it a versatile system which can accomplish a variety of tasks.
According to the Imperial War Museum, the first drones were building during World War I. These first drones were often launched by using a catapult, then flown using remote control technologies. By 1935, the United Kingdom had developed radio-controlled aircraft for pilot training programs, which is how the name “drone” first came about. One of those early radio-controlled aircraft was called the “Queen Bee.”
Today’s drones are much smaller. Some even fit in the palm of your hand. In time, drones could become even smaller, creating significant concerns for personal privacy and safety. That is why now is a good time to examine the key pros and cons of drones.
List of the Pros of Drones
1. It is a technology which promotes a safer environment for everyone.
Drones can be used for a variety of tasks which help to promote a safer environment. Cameras equipped to drones can evaluate traffic patterns to help drivers avoid high-risk areas. They can be used to enter dangerous situations or inspect suspicious items without creating a threat to the operator. With their remote monitoring capabilities, a drone can monitor situations, report potential dangers, and warn people of unsafe conditions.
2. It is an affordable technology.
Drones provide cost-savings opportunities in numerous areas. They can directly replace manned operations, creating labor savings because one person, instead of several, can be used to complete tasks. They save energy because we are using fewer vehicles to accomplish tasks when using a drone. It is also a refined technology, which means the manufacturing costs are reduced because efficient processes have been developed for it. Drones are no longer accessible to only the military, law enforcement, or the elite today.
3. It is a technology which creates jobs.
There are numerous direct and indirect employment opportunities available because of drone technologies. The drone industry employs software developers, engineers, part manufacturers, pilots, and design specialists. These jobs may not be available if drone technologies were not permitted. There are also indirect retail positions supported by the sale of drones to consumers. Even if some drones are able to fully replace an employee, there are still high-skill employment positions offered by this industry to offset those losses.
4. It is a technology with a strong potential for future development.
Unmanned aerial systems could be used in a variety of situations that are only just starting to be explored. We could use drones for search and rescue missions. They could be used for oil and gas exploration and development. Drones could be used to map archaeological sites, offer telecommunication benefits, distribute internet access, forecast the weather, and provide agriculture monitoring.
5. It is a technology which provides new ways to see the world.
When cameras are equipped to a drone, we are able to see the world in many different ways. We are able to capture aerial images that can be shared over social media easily. Photographers have new business opportunities because of what a drone can provide. Filmmakers can expand their production values by incorporating drones to create specific shots which help to develop the visual aesthetics of a project.
6. It is a technology that is fun to use.
Although it can be difficult to learn how to fly drones at first, piloting one can be a lot of fun once you begin to get the hang of it. Drone piloting has gone beyond recreational use today as well. Some of the best drone pilots compete at the professional level, through organizations like the Drone Racing League, which offers a new career option for enthusiasts to pursue.
List of the Cons of Drones
1. It is a technology which can be easily abused.
Drones are often used for law enforcement purposes. There are military uses for drone technologies as well. People can easily use drones to advance their own purposes at the expense of others. Not only can drones be used to track criminals or provide safety monitoring, they can be used for privacy invasion or to target specific population groups. With terrorism a consistent threat in today’s world, many personal liberties could be violated in the name of providing personal security with a drone.
2. It is a technology which operates in a legal “gray area.”
The laws, procedures, and policies which involve drones are still being developed. Because drones are such a new technology, there is a patchwork of laws which govern their use. Some people may be able to use drones anywhere, as long as they do not interfere with other aircraft. Others may not be allowed to launch their drone unless it is on their personal property. That creates gray areas of legality where someone may find themselves in violation of a law that they knew nothing about.
3. It is a technology with a poor public reputation.
People are rightfully skeptical of a drone that may be flying around them. Unless you are given an opportunity to examine the equipment on a drone, you do not know what the drone’s user may be doing with this technology. Stories of drones flying over Paris, landing at the White House, or interfering with aircraft operations have helped to fuel a poor public reputation for this technology that may be difficult to counter.
4. It is a technology with limited access.
Drone technologies are generally available to the developed world only. Commercial drone technologies are further restricted to a handful of nations that have the manufacturing capabilities of creating an effective UAS. That means the possible benefits which are potentially offered by this technology are available to relatively few people. That creates a system of “us vs. them” which may cause one population group to develop their society at the expense of other societies.
5. It is a technology that can be prone to accidents.
An experienced pilot is required to maximize the benefits which can be achieved with drone technologies. For rookie pilots, the threat of an accident is quite high. It is easy to crash a drone into a wall, an expensive object, or even another person. Drones that are flown in heavily-populated areas increase the risks of an injury occurring, especially if it interferes with the flight path of passenger aircraft. The Federal Aviation Administration in the U.S. reports that it receives about 25 reports per month of drones crashing.
6. It is a technology which can interfere with nature.
Drones have been attacked by animals, even in mid-flight, which poses a risk to the animal and whomever or whatever may be below the drone. In 2014, a red-tailed hawk attacked a quadcopter in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the video from the encounter went viral. In this incident, nothing happened to the animal. If the animal were to consume parts from a drone, or cause one to fail, there could be unpredictable risks to consider.
7. It is a technology with legal issues to consider.
Because of the actions of some drone users, there are certain areas where it is illegal to use a private drone for any reason. There are published guidelines on how, when, and where to operate a drone. If you violate those guidelines, or do not follow drone-use laws, then you are subject to fines or imprisonment. One of the largest fines was paid by SkyPan for illegal drone flights in the city of Chicago between 2012-2014. They settled with the FAA for $200,000 on a proposed fine of $1.9 million. Private pilot Mical Caterina has been levied $55,000 in fines for violating 5 aviation regulations.
8. It is a technology with limitations.
Drones may provide certain benefits which promote higher levels of general safety for military and law enforcement personnel. They also have certain limitations that must be considered. A drone is currently incapable of capturing criminals or combatants. They have limited carrying and cargo potential, which limits their ability to retrieve lost hardware. At the moment, drones are unable to provide door-to-door services, which means the technology is limited to observation benefits only.
The pros and cons of drones show us that there is great potential for good in this technology. There is also the possibility of abuse that comes with drones. That is why we must work to develop laws and expectations regarding the implementation of this technology to ensure we are all working from a level playing field. We must protect privacy, limit weapons development, and continue to encourage innovation within this industry to maximize its benefits to the fullest extent possible.