Drones: The Good, the Bad, and the Unsettling

Your newest delivery man

Your newest delivery man

A few evenings ago, as the library was closing, I was sitting in my car in the parking lot catching up on some things on my phone. Suddenly I heard a tap at the window. There was a woman outside and she was pointing toward the sky. I got out to find out what she was so excited about.

There were some red and green blinky lights hovering in the air above the street a half of a block away from where we were standing. It was too dark to be sure what the lights might have been attached to. “What do you think that is?” she asked. I told her that it seemed like it might be a drone. Once it started moving I was certain it was a drone. I saw a light occasionally come on which I think must have been to facilitate a camera controlled remotely somewhere.

Her theory was that it might be a UFO. I stopped myself from explaining that since UFO stands for “unidentified flying object” and we have not definitively identified the flying object it technically was a UFO. Nonetheless, I could tell that she was very creeped out by what was happening. I reassured her that, since it hovers like a drone and moves like a drone, it was most likely a drone and not a visitor from somewhere else in the universe. We parted ways and I started thinking about the future.

We are not too many years away from wide scale drone delivery. Last year Amazon, the country’s largest online retailer, sent a letter to the FAA regarding the development of their Amazon Prime Air service. When I first heard about this I was pretty excited. Same day delivery via drone sounds pretty nice. But the applications go far beyond my consumer fancy of same day toilet paper or flying fast food. I started thinking about natural disasters and getting medical supplies out to where they are needed much faster than we can now.

Currently there are not that many drones which have the kind of range required to master drone delivery, but you can be sure that there are many companies working on perfecting it. Of course technology companies like Amazon and Google are working on it. But so are parcel delivery services such as FedEx and UPS. The first FAA approved drone delivery has actually already taken place. Although aided by an airplane modified by NASA to work remotely like a drone, this pioneer delivery dispatched medical supplies. Domino’s and a company called Tacocopter are already delivering food now as well.

These delivery applications are all very provocative, but what about those creeper drones that I started with? Even more scary, to me, are the drones being used by our military to attack unsuspecting weddings. Well, those things are already here. It is true that a peeping tom could use a drone to look into your window and there is nothing that you can do about it. In fact, because that it is considered an aircraft, it is a felony to shoot it down. As far as this scenario goes though, I think that the legal situation will change and that drones that are hovering within a certain height on private property will start to face some sort of legal consequence if it has not been invited.

As far as military use of drones goes, I guess the question to ask is whether our technology has outpaced our sense of compassion for humanity. I would argue that perhaps it has, but it certainly is not just because we use drones. For that matter it is not even remotely recent. Ever since humans have been making tools, there were always some made or used as weapons. This is just a modern version of that human foible.

What do you think? Are drones appealing or chilling? Let me know your views in the comments.

Kirk Aug

Kirk is the technology trend watcher at SeedSing. He is always looking to the sky in order to help fellow citizens identify the UFOs. Follow Kirk on twitter @kirkaug.