Future of remote drones flies above us
Drones, those spidery little flying gizmos, suddenly seem to be everywhere; and judging from the store shelves, thousands will shortly be appearing under Christmas trees across the nation.
Most of these are still at the toy stage, like radio-controlled mini-cars or model planes. Very quickly, however, they’ll grow and go to work.
Amazon might have been a bit premature, declaring that a fleet of drones would soon be dropping its packages all over creation though that day might not be too far away.
Before that, police departments likely will deploy drones for surveillance, a cheaper alternative to helicopters. Real estate agents will use them to take appealing photos of houses and neighborhoods, while homebuyers might fly one to scout the territory.
Drones dispatched on search-and-rescue missions, and hardier drones deployed for hurricane hunting, will not be too far behind.
More’s to come, according to futurist Thomas Frey. In a recent speech at Cape Fear Community College, Frey painted a future — give it 25 years or so — when farmers would use drones for seed spreading, crop dusting and scanning fields for signs of disease.
Facebook is talking about high-altitude, solar-powered drones, capable of staying aloft for years and bringing Wi-Fi access to remote corners of the globe.
Of course, all this technology has a dark side. Already, the Federal Aviation Administration is claiming more than 100 complaints a month from pilots who say they’ve spotted drones swooping close — perhaps dangerously close — to their planes or runways.
Drone proponents say those reports are exaggerated, but as we’ve seen, the population and size of drones are about to explode. If a few seagulls sucked into an engine can take down a jetliner, think of the damage a drones can do.
The FAA and Transportation Department have formed a task force to draw up proposals, such as requiring drone operators to be registered — and, if necessary, trained and licensed, just like pilots.
And if the computer systems of cars and other machinery can be hacked, what’s to stop a hacker from gaining control of a drone and wreaking havoc with it?
Further rules might have to be drawn, limiting how high drones can go, and where. A drone that can carry an Amazon box could also tote a lethal-sized bomb.
And while we’re at it, we should be asking other questions, as well. Mini-cams are among the first and easiest cargos for drones. Do we want tens of thousands of little cameras in the sky watching everything we do?
Ever thought about the airspace above your house? Would, or should, it be legal for a drone to hover over your home shooting video? Would you have a right to shoot it down?
It’s not too soon to start thinking about such issues.
The future is coming fast, and we’d better be prepared to do more than duck.
Reprinted from the New Bern Sun Journal.
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