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The Impact of Drones on Society and Regulatory Attempts

October 30, 2022

Today, sightings of drone technology are almost as common as standard aircrafts. But ever wondered what the first drones were like? They were pilotless vehicles developed in Britain and the USA during World War 1. Nominally, they were known as Britain’s Aerial Target (1917) and America’s Kettering Bug (1918). However, neither drone was used operationally during the war.

Over a century later, drone usage has risen to immense heights. The reasons why drones have become so popular abound. Hence, there is no doubt that drone technology has become indispensable and had a positive impact in society. This applies to both consumer flying drones (used for photography, videography, entertainment, etc.) and commercial drones (used for asset inspection, natural disaster, ambulance drone response, etc.).

What is the impact of drones on society?

As any other form of technology that has come to stay, drones have had a impact on our society. Following a good number of studies, this impact has been discovered to be multi-faceted.

One major facet is the generational impact of drones. Research has shown that younger generations are largely drawn to drone technology. Drones have become cost effective and accessible for almost anyone. Meanwhile, the dynamics among older generations in relation to drone usage are completely different. Media trends have shown more apprehension amongst older generations towards the negative impact of drones on privacy and interpersonal relationships.

Below is a broad summary of 3 significant ways in which drones or UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) impact our society today.

1. Impacts on Privacy.

Drone privacy and the laws that safeguard it have sparked controversy, especially surrounding the use of the internet today. Recently, these concerns have equally extended to drone usage and possible invasions of privacy by drone operators.

It is important to note that the laws that guide drone usage are not always clear-cut. Thus, there has been an identifiable increase in societal unease towards the private use of drones as this is largely unregulated. In comparison, scepticism towards drone surveillance by security and law enforcement officials is much lower. This is owing to an existing belief that law enforcement agencies are subject to some level of oversight or transparency.

2. Impacts on Security.

The social impacts of drones on security are majorly positive. The use of aerial and other forms of drone technology in the military for data collection has significantly increased on a global scale over the last decade. Governments are investing billions in these technologies to increase the combat and surveillance capacities of drone based security forces, amongst other benefits.

The impacts of drones on security also extend to the human psyche. Here, the effects are generally negative. Studies have concluded that a large majority of people feel uneasy when exposed to drone technology. This is regardless of drone’s usage although it was noticed that larger-sized drones are more likely to evoke this fear.

3. Impacts on the Environment.

Drones have become essential technology in the realm of emergency response. During times of natural disaster, drones are used for search and rescue, damage assessment, and even further disaster prevention. Natural disasters like floods and forest fires are now detectable using surveillance drones outfitted with thermal imaging cameras.

In addition, drones have also proven useful in wildlife conservation and efforts to control climate change. Tracking animals with drone technology also aids the tracking and prevention of diseases. Drones are also used in crop cultivation, weather forecasting, waste management, and so many other environmental benefits of drones.

4. Impacts on Commercial Delivery

A delivery drone is an unmanned aerial vechile (UAV) which is used to transport packages, urgent medical supplies, food or other goods. They are generally autonomous which means they do not required a drone pilot. This led to worries that the sky's would be filled with drones as a result the Federal Aviation administration created a special criteria certification for commercial delivery drones.

Major delivery services like Amazon have a number of pilot schemes to test drone delivery. The 2 major advantages to delivery drones are that they are cost effective and can save time and lives when dealing with time critical deliveries like organ transplants. Questions remain on the long time effectiveness of delivery drones but tests are being scaled up around the world.

Governmental Attempts to Regulate Drones.

Governments have found it difficult to regulate the use of drones for 2 main reasons:

1. The existing divide between the law and rapid technological advancements:

Legislation in general is yet to catch up with the culture and technology of society today. Drone technology has not been exempted from this divide. Nonetheless, it has been suggested that the potential impact of drone technology on legislations such as privacy laws could be immense in the nearest future.

2. Unclear legislative jurisdiction: The legal landscape surrounding drone technology is currently complex and unclear. However, laws that prohibit trespassing and guide police response to suspected criminal activity have largely been applied to civilian drone usage.

Therefore, it is important for drone operators to keep abreast of all local legislations that apply to drones to avoid breaking them. Additionally, it is essential that governments and law enforcement departments make increased efforts to develop more clear-cut drone policies. This will help to cut down societal unease towards drones despite all the positives attached to them.

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