When is a Drone in Your Neighborhood a Bad Thing?

This is the second of a two-part series on drones and their implications on a free society.

In the previous article in this series we explored the lighter side of drone use. How they can be used by individuals for fun and profit. That’s not the plan for this one, here we’ll talk about the “scaaaarrrryyyy” aspects of both public and private drone usage, policy and technology.

As previously discussed drones seem strange and scary because they are inaccessible, but once you dive down the rabbit-hole they’re not nearly so frightening. For instance, take this headline at the Drudge Report, “DHS Drones Detect Whether a Person is Armed”. If one would actually read the whitepaper describing the capabilities of the drone, rather than engage in sensational journalism, one would discover that based on the posture and position of their arms whether they’re likely to be armed or not. No millimeter wave, not metal detectors, no x-ray vision or other super powers. Scaaaaarrryyyy headline, but the technology isn’t really all that big a deal.

Speaking of Scaaaarrryyyy things, have you see this youtube video about arming a hobby drone? The implication that a hobby drone could be armed with a real gun hangs heavy over the entire video, yet the admonition in the video that “laws still apply to drones” applies. If you kill someone with a gun, or car, or drone you’re still responsible for your actions, it’s not the inherent fault of the inanimate object! (Regardless of what anti-gun activists might imply)

Recently a Colorado congressman, whose name I can’t remember or find on the internet, speaking about drones said on CSPAN, “We can’t have this technology in the hands of just anyone.” Ironically the sentiment is one that any libertarian can agree with. Where we disagree is on how that technology should be limited. I don’t want this in the hands of local police departments. Civilian surveillance should be expensive, both monetarily and in terms of manpower. Drone technology changes that rather drastically.

So where should the clear thinking libertarian come down on drone usage? Current computer technology would indeed allow a “big-brother in the sky” usage of drones. Where the behaviour of average citizens could be compared against threat profiles, flagged and tagged for possible illegal activity or investigation. This persistent low-level investigation without probable cause is a clear overstep of constitutional authority. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to make sure that 1984 is a fictional flight of fancy, not a very real predictor of their future.

As far as civilian usage goes, all I have to say is this; there is a company in San Francisco who wants to deliver tacos all over the city by drone. Think about that, a pizza, taco, or amazon order, delivered by a quad- or hexacopter. The future is here ladies and gentlemen, don’t let a fearful government deprive you of it!

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