Drone activity on the rise around the world


Ryan Chan, Senior staff member

Be it a weapon of war, or a tool that resembles a toy, drones are slowly becoming more relevant in our daily lives. The question is, should we accept or reject increased drone usage? Evidence suggests we should. 

We don’t really think about drones too often nowadays though. Last time I looked, the sky was still dominated by planes and helicopters. Yet evidence is mounting that drones are increasingly replacing their manned aerial counterparts. Which leaves us pondering, is this change for better, or for the worse?

It’s hard to talk about drones without mentioning their involvement in the US military. When it comes to drones, the US military has helped pioneer the offensive capability and development of drone technology. One of the most recent drones from aviation industry giant Northrop Grumman, the X-47B “stealth drone,” is the first to be launched off an aircraft carrier, and resembles the iconic B2 Stealth bomber. It’s a radically different design from the MQ-1 Predator drone, that is the face of military drones from the US.

Drones like these, have been at the forefront of media attention, raising questions about ethicality of wartime drones. Many regard drone strikes as major contributors of civilian casualties. But in truth, drones identify targets and avoid collateral damage better than conventional air strikes.

To make matters worse, drones have been showing up in the media as the subject of worrying news. On Feb. 25, NBC News reported that French authorities scrambled to determine who had carried out drone flights over five French landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower and the presidential palace, as well as earlier flights weeks before over French nuclear power plants.

The sites, which are protected by no-fly zones, were easily penetrated by several small and elusive drones. Incidents such as these will demonize drones in the public eye, as we continue to push the limits of drones.

Rest assured, drones will likely not become a tool for spying, as incidents like these are few and far between. If anything, we should embrace the new wave of drones that will inevitably become a greater presence in our lives, and try to better understand their usages. Though it may seem like the primary usage of drones lies in military application, we can expect a shift towards commercial drone usage.

Just as planes only really took off commercially after World War II, we may see a huge influx of commercial drones. Drones are currently being used to inspect power lines, monitor crop fields and generate maps for cartographers.

Drones are wonderful tools, with a wide range of utility. But our laws and sometimes our perceptions of drones are lagging behind reality. 

Organizations like the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will have to speed up the process of developing rules governing drones. Furthermore, the general public will have to keep an open mind about drones, while at the same time keeping a wary eye on the potential uses of this technology.