Drones: a force for good... or bad?
There are certain new technologies that are very much on trend at the moment. These are techs that dominates conversations and is at the centre of media excitement, leading to much hype, fevered speculation, and ridiculous predictions. 3D printing is one of those technologies that jump to mind as one which has been subject to this level of focus and exuberance. We’ve seen experts talking up and setting huge expectations for the capabilities of the fledgling devices. But this is far from a one off event. This is also true of drones.
There has been frenetic discussion and debate about drones and their potential uses for many years now. But there has also been heightened predictions about the dangers posed by these flying widgets, to such an extent that we’ve seen a number of legal restrictions put on them over recent years in the UK, including a height restriction and a ban on flying them near populated areas and private property. And yet, we hear so much about the potential uses of the tech, including for delivering post, packages, and shopping. So are drones a force for good? Or are they a force for bad?
Aside from the frequently discussed uses of drones, there is a monumentally long list of the potential applications of the machines. What started off as a toy now looks set to revolutionise a whole swathe of industries, contribute a great deal to the economy, and be part of an extremely lucrative market. Whilst drones possess their own downsides and dangers, this is true of any disruptive technology, and we should not be frightened of embracing the benefits.
It is thought that within 5 years the drone market could be worth $100bn, with everyday use in transportation, entertainment, retail, healthcare, agriculture, security, and construction, doing everything from carrying passengers to protecting homes to 3D printing buildings to providing emergency help and treatment which can save lives. Drones hold a massive amount of potential to be truly transformative, and we often forget that, choosing to obsess over small stories that reflect them in a bad light.
And yet in the wrong hands these machines can bring about a lot of very scary possibilities. At the start of August, for example, the unpopular Venezuelan President, Nicolás Maduro, claimed that he had been the victim of an assassination attempt using a drone. There are also significant concerns about espionage, threats to civil aviation, and breaches of privacy. Not to mention the danger to jobs as a result of increasingly advanced drones taking up roles traditionally filled by a human.
So whilst drones may bring many potential new uses and benefits to society, they also harbour new threats and dangers. For every person who wishes to use a drone to improve lives, there is somebody who wants to harness that power for their own ends, and it is a technology capable of a great deal of damage.
So which is it?
Looking at the facts and arguments on both sides, one can only conclude that it is not black and white. Whilst there is a very convincing case for the good that drones can do, one cannot dismiss the very real dangers that come along with it. But that does not mean they are not good. All things have downsides, they just require properly regulating and controlling, and we’re seeing government already doing that.