By Grace Kenneally
BOLOGNA — They are precise, they are cheap, and they can go to places that were previously inaccessible. It is hard to argue with these benefits. Drones can do amazing things, but we must consider the unintended consequences of further encouraging this technology.
The first, and most costly toll is on human security and human rights. Drones take away any due process when the U.S. government unilaterally decides to execute suspected terrorists, often taking the lives of innocent civilians as well. This is something that any proponent of democracy or general decency should take into serious consideration.
And if the lives of the people of Yemen and Pakistan are not high on your moral priority list, just imagine what happens when other countries begin to bring vigilante justice to your home. What about non-state actors? What happens when all countries begin executing suspected enemies? Where is the law and order in that society?
But there are other reasons to be wary of drone capabilities. Surveillance drones are creepy; I do not think anyone would be happy to look out their window and see a drone. Some people are willing to let that slide in the name of national security, but the lack of regulation in the drone industry means that anyone can operate a private drone. There is a new tool (NoFlyZone.org) to allow you to add your property to a “no fly zone” of sorts, but not all drone producers participate in the program.
Then there is aviation safety. The friendly skies are becoming the clogged skies, and drones are adding to the congestion (without the benefit of air traffic control to guide them).
Or we can remember the Serbia-Albania football match that was disrupted by a drone. Apparently flying robots are good at sneaking past security checkpoints.
These known risks, and along with the unknown unknowns, they should weigh heavily on drone advocates. Drones have proven to be dangerous enough to at least warrant heavier regulation, if not prohibition. We often climb on new bandwagons before realizing the harm that they cause, but we can try to avoid making that mistake again.