It's been an interesting couple of weeks for drone watchers. In late January, PBS's NOVA program aired a comprehensive review of drone developments in a story titled "Rise of the Drones". (Darn it - I should have copyrighted that phrase when I used it back on December 31st.) Then, last week started out with the much ballyhooed release of a Department of Justice White Paper which is purportedly the basis for Obama Administration decisions to use drones to kill American members of Al Qaeda without due process. A few days later, after the outlay of $80,000 in Department of Homeland Security grant money by the Seattle Police Department to purchase two Draganflyer X6 Helicopter Tech drones, the public push-back to the department's drone program had grown to the point where Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and Police Chief John Diaz decided to permanently ground the machines. So naturally, like a whole host of national news programs, CBS's Sunday Morning couldn't stay away from topic and made the expanding scope of the drone debate its lead piece. Oddly enough, today, the topic comes full circle on the cover story of Time magazine: "Rise of the Drones".
(video - 52:52)
(PBS NOVA, January 23, 2013)
(The Seattle Times, February 7, 2013)
(video - 9:16)
(CBS Sunday Morning, February 10, 2013)
(Time, February 11, 2013)
Comment: How sad is all this. As a result of the overseas war time use of remotely controlled aviation assets, the outcome of those efforts have become intermixed with the average American's concerns about privacy and government overreach back here at home. Although there is plenty of room for concern, it should be far less with structured elements of society like police departments who typically have strong chains of command and accountability, and far more with the impending commercialization and use by private citizens where elements of supervision are less robust. Unfortunately, the heart of the matter is that the preponderance of decision makers at all levels of government have been asleep at the switch when it comes to the Geospatial Revolution. Consequently, laws and policies have substantially lagged what technology can now deliver. And without that guidance in place to shape the introduction of starling technologies like drones, public opinion is certain to undermine the incredible range of positives that could be made possible through their use by the Emergency Services Sector.
Lead graphic: Time
Lead graphic: Time