Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are no longer confined to the battlefield; soon enough, a civilian market will emerge and share the same airspace with manned commercial aircraft. Remotely operated and GPS-guided, these drones will help monitor storm systems, assist in search-and-rescue operations, track wildlife, survey power lines, deliver goods, broaden photographic possibilities, and trace wildfires.
This isn't speculative; it's inevitable, and not everyone is happy about it. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has until 2015 to develop regulations aimed at limiting the myriad privacy and safety concerns associated with UAVs. But given the vast potential of the tech, it's difficult to anticipate exactly what the consumer drone market will look like.
"Part of the reason the skies haven't opened up to private and corporate use of drones yet is because the FAA has been so concerned about safety," says Jennifer Lynch, a staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital privacy advocacy group. "Drones currently don't have any means of seeing objects around them."
UAV advocates counter that remote -sensing technology, which is progressing rapidly, will allow drones to autonomously detect and avoid objects. Systems will become lighter, safer and smarter, featuring the ability to automatically sense the location of walls, buildings and aircraft.
Scott McTavish, president of Accuas, a Canadian UAV land-surveying company, says the miniaturization of drone sensors is critical to the market's success.
"I think the sense-and-avoid technology and the advancement of sensor technology are really going to advance the industry," he says.
But lighter, smarter drones are not going to prevent enterprising troublemakers from corrupting the original intent of the technology. Last year, a research team at the University of Texas-Austin demonstrated how the GPS signals guiding a UAV could be hacked and rerouted from the ground -- a potentially dangerous trend in the GPS community known as "spoofing."
Earlier this month, a small quadcopter flew within feet of German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a campaign rally before crashing onto the stage, raising fears of what a weaponized consumer UAV could do.
Mario Mairena, government relations manager for the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, maintains that weaponization is strictly prohibited by the FAA. When asked about a video that went viral last year, depicting a man operating a remote-controlled drone with attached machine gun, Mairena responded, "They're breaking the law, and they should be held account-able." (continued...)
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Ulrich Samoya Antonov:
Posted: 2013-10-25 @ 3:12pm PT
Welcome to the United Police States of Amerika
Posted: 2013-10-01 @ 11:05am PT
Accuas has over 600 projects flown, no incidents. When regulated and operated by responsible people, this is entirely safe. More safe than manned aircraft surveying projects. These will not be flying over populated areas, they will (and currently are) used in remote rural areas. There are 1000's of these flown commercially every day right now, you don't hear of them because there are no incidences to get excited about. A manned heli went down in our area a few months back surveying electrical transmission lines through the mountains, killing 3 people. UAV's can do these types of jobs safely. There is always a level of paranoia when new technology comes out.
Posted: 2013-10-01 @ 2:29am PT
Looks very lucrative but even more dangerous, people will be dying and going to jail. This will not be good for the majority of the planet but great for the Corporations. Watch out for this when it happens.