Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, are aircrafts that fly without a human pilot on board. Controlled from the ground as part of unmanned aircraft systems, drones were originally developed in order to complete military missions deemed to dangerous for humans to perform. Although drones were created solely for military purposes, their use has been expanding rapidly over the last few years throughout the private sector.
To the average citizen, the word drone brings to mind precision military bombings and extrajudicial killings. There are good reasons for that. For years their sole use was for military operations requiring air support in areas where manned aircrafts would be unable to safely reach. And the news media has reinforced this perception of drones as flying death machines, flooding the airwaves with stories about drone strikes in the middle east. Despite this negative reputation, police forces around the world have come to see the benefits offered by this new technology. Drones are now used for more than just killing enemy combatants, helping officers of the law keep the peace.
One reason that many people are uncomfortable with the idea of these unmanned aerial vehicles is the increasing levels of autonomy under which they operate. Drone technology has advanced to such a degree that it is possible for them to essentially fly themselves. While this is undeniably useful in civilian applications, such as aerial mapping and scientific research, it raises serious concerns with regards to military operations. As these drones require less and less direct supervision from ground control, it is possible for them to kill enemy soldiers without any input from an actual human being. This is concerning for obvious reasons. However, the possibility that no human lives will have to be lost on either side in the future makes many believe it is worth the risk.
The civilian applications of drone technology are varied, spanning several different fields and industries. Scientists now use drones to study natural phenomenon in locations where it would be dangerous for a person to collect data, such as around active volcanos or in the arctic tundra. They are even used in space exploration. Delivery services like Amazon have also begun to embrace the use of drones, for the delivery of packages to people’s homes. One day all shopping will be done online and delivered by drones to customers.
The civilian market for drones now drastically surpasses the military market. Millions upon millions of these drones have been sold to customers around the country, allowing the average person the opportunity to fly their own drone around the neighborhood. As a result of this however, criminals have the same access to this technology. Smugglers were some of the first to see the potential benefits of drone technology, using them to sneak drugs and money across borders without detection. Corporate espionage through the use of drones has also become problematic, as competitors now have new avenues to research and steal from their enemies in the private sector.