Drones need regulation, will benefit all

Vinny Arciaga

By Sophie Golden

If you’re like me, the word “drone” conjures up images of military missiles and devastating explosions. But the same device that is used as an overseas tactic for destruction has a myriad of beneficial domestic uses. A drone, also known as an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), is simply “an aircraft piloted by a remote control or computer,” according to uav.com. Drones can be used for photography, security surveillance, deliveries, agricultural crop surveillance and so on. The possibilities are endless.

Although drones in everyday life may seem as far-fetched as scanners for our BCPS cards, they have already started to emerge. Last week’s episode of Modern Family, in which a mysterious drone uses cameras to spy on a sunbathing character, demonstrates the relevance of drones in today’s society. International Drone Day was celebrated on March 14 with a festival in Nevada, featuring drone demonstrations and advertising with the phrase “Drones are good.”

Regular attendees of varsity boys’ basketball games may have noticed the small drone that circulates the gym. The drone is piloted by Ryan Web, the son of field hockey assistant coach Patti Web.
While it sounds cool to live in a Jetsons-esque age of technology in which Amazon packages are delivered to your door by machines and filmmakers attain breathtaking views by strapping cameras to their drones, it seems like a highly problematic idea. Essentially advanced remote-controlled airplanes, drones are inevitably prone to technological malfunctions and privacy invasions.

This past January, a man, who was allegedly drunk, accidentally flew his small drone onto the grounds of the White House. The incident sparked concern from the U.S. Secret Service over the ability of civilians to access the property.

One prudent perspective on domestic drones can be found at NoFlyZone.org, which states that drones “increasingly impact our lives positively” but cause “legitimate privacy concerns.” The website offers people an opportunity to prevent drones from flying over their property by adding their name and address to a list of properties that should be avoided by drone programmers.

The problem is that even this measure of precaution isn’t authenticated. There are no laws requiring drone controllers to recognize “no fly zones.” As drones become increasingly available, regulations need to be made to ensure that privacy is protected. While I’ve never been overly concerned about the government’s ability to access phones, emails, computers, etc., it is unnerving to think that drones could be used to gain access to private property anywhere, not just by the government but by anyone.

While the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) lays out regulations for drone ownership and usage, the policies are vague. The FAA website stipulates that specific UAV models be flown “strictly for hobby or recreational use” but fails to define what is considered a “hobby.”

Luckily, the FAA monitors drone usage by issuing Airworthiness Certificates specific to the drone model and intended purpose. Want to use your drone to cover stories for news media? You’ll need to apply for a special certificate and be exempted from existing rules.

No matter the concerns, technological innovation is inevitable. The fact that drones will be used in expanding ways is unavoidable. With definitive regulations and respect for privacy, drones will benefit us all.