OBSERVER NEWS

Piloting the Present for a Pilotless Future

An armed predator drone firing a Hellfire missile. (Photo: NATO SOF Coordination Center, January 2010. Brigadier L S P Manns.)

An armed predator drone firing a Hellfire missile. (Photo: NATO SOF Coordination Center, January 2010. Brigadier L S P Manns.)

By VALENTIN MARKOV

BOLOGNA — Drones come as the latest in a long line of disruptive technology inciting hysteria. The economic benefits resulting from this technological advance are potentially transformational. The primary concerns over drone technology stem from the military and surveillance applications of drones. These challenges are surmountable and drone technology should be developed and encouraged so that society as a whole may benefit.

Arguments against drones are indefensible from a purely economic perspective. The gains to productivity from increased automation and lives saved by sending drones into hazardous situations are too great to forgo. Some workers may be displaced in the short-term as drones assume monotonous or dangerous tasks. However, in the long-term, workers will be re-employed and society will enjoy a higher national income, greater productivity, and safer professions. Drones thus will follow the paradigm of each disruptive technology of the past.

The history of military technology is one of increasing the effectiveness of arms and minimizing the sacrifice of lives. Drones follow both trends, creating worry that they incentivize military action by lowering the associated risks. Drones are adept at reconnaissance and tactical delivery of payloads to targets but are not the panacea of military engagement. They will not win wars singlehandedly any more than strategic bombing won the war in Vietnam. As commanders and politicians gain more experience deploying drones, the tactical and strategic misuse of drones should subside as doctrines and technology are both refined.

The domestic use of surveillance drones by law enforcement and private actors reasonably causes concerns over privacy. Judging by media coverage, hysteria is brewing over domestic drone usage as the slippery slope to endemic Orwellian surveillance. The U.S. Constitution, backed by Supreme Court decisions, bestows an implicit right to privacy. Assuaging concerns over drone surveillance requires additional codification of rights to privacy and regulating the use of drones so as to safeguard privacy but not impact the aforementioned economic gains.

Drone technology is a great advance that will improve quality of life and economic productivity, in addition to bolstering military capability. It must not be squandered through mishandling of regulations and misperceptions of drones.

Advertisements