…we don’t have closer regulation of privately owned drones?
An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), often called a “drone” or an “unpiloted aerial vehicle” or “a remotely piloted aircraft” (RPA), or even model airplane, is an aircraft with no human pilot aboard. A drone is controlled by a person on the ground, sort of like a kite without strings. Sounds pretty innocuous, doesn’t it? I didn’t think much about them, except that at times I found their high-pitched buzzing noises a little irritating. I don’t live in a highrise, so I don’t feel concerned that someone might be flying a drone past my undraped windows and photographing me watching a porno movie and subsequently trying to blackmail me. I’m really not keen on the idea that a drone could escape its owner’s control and get sucked into one of the engines of a jet in the process of landing, thereby causing a catastrophic crash. I mean, we are deprived of our cuticle scissors with one inch blades and our nail files, and have to take our shoes off for the sake of public safety. Drones aren’t supposed to be near airports, but heck, accidents happen, and drones are just another form of technologically advanced recreation.
There are practical applications of the technology, of course. Utility companies can remotely view and inspect power or pipelines without sending people into difficult-to-reach locations. Police and firefighters have also made use of drones by sending them into situations deemed too dangerous for humans. That’s all fine as far as I see it, but now drones’ numbers are growing and they no longer seem quite so safe. In the past few generation, many families have moved away from giving their children toy guns in the hope that they will not see weapons as “fun” things, but more and more we are seeing drones being used for “play”. Adult and near-adult play, yes, but play nevertheless.
Then, I ran across a news-clip that left me not only disturbed and concerned, but downright frightened. In this clip, UAVs–drones–were being used to spot enemy targets and call in bomb and rocket-fire upon them. Pictured here is an unmanned helicopter shown by the US Navy. I don’t know how big it is, or how fast, or what its range might be, or its possible payload, but I find its very existence distressing on a number of levels.
Okay, sure, while I have a problem with the very concept of war, I freely acknowledge it as something so deeply embedded in our human nature I doubt we’ll ever rid ourselves of it. We have enemies. Enemies are sworn to kill us. We are equally sworn to try to stop them with our military might. This has been going on for centuries. In fairly recent history, Nazi scientists built the V-2 rockets to attack England without risking their own personnel in fighters and bombers. The drones I saw in that military footage were anything but recreational—they were serious implements of war with operators many kilometers from the battle scene. The drones’ cameras were controlled by someone sitting far away with a computer in front of him, watching the scene in real time, while in radio contact with the soldier, sailor, or airman who had the weaponry to destroy the enemy from a relatively secure remote location.
Now comes the really scary part that makes me more than just a little nervous as I read and hear about some pretty bad people in our midst, people like the girl or boy down the block, or the undergrad in the same school who looks like your cousin, who suddenly does something unthinkable because he or she has been “radicalized”. If it’s okay for just anybody to buy and fly a drone, to have so many of them zipping around our cities and towns and over our countrysides, do we have any way of knowing who those people are, and what their motivations might be? There are those who hate us, who believe terrorism and terrorist attacks are the only way to either bring us into line with their way of thinking or eradicate us from this Earth they do not want share with us. If a drone can be flown by anyone, anywhere, at any time, what’s to prevent an enemy from giving it a payload of poison to sift into our water reservoirs, over our fields where crops grow, over the stadiums where we gather by the thousands to watch games, and even over the schoolyards where our kid play and learn?
I say if we must have drones, they must be regulated, the people who fly them must be trained, registered, and identified, not to mention investigated. If just anyone can get hold of a UAV and put us at more risk than we already are, we need to look into the matter and face the danger, address the possibilities of future problems. It’s completely naive to think that our enemies don’t have the same capabilities we have. Let’s not forget those would-be pilots who wanted to learn only how to take off and fly, but not how to land. They sure didn’t have our well being in mind.