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The Reality of Drones in the Public Sphere


But the most unsettling aspect is that such a takeover would have a larger effect on human resources than changes to the auto industry ever did. Instead of car assembly workers being laid off, the introduction of drones could lead to the loss of humanized postal services (as we have begun to see here in Canada), and the loss of employment for pilots, scientific assistants, and heck, even the pizza boys.

As with many innovations, the implementation isn’t as clean cut as we’d like to believe. While these challenges are significant, the thorniest issue has yet to be discussed.

Surveillance: How Drones Will Change the Way We Look at Privacy

When the Americans installed a camera onto their surveillance drone in Bosnia in the 1990’s, they changed the way privacy would be looked at in the new millennium. With significant privacy concerns raised by figures such as Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and his Wikileaks network, privacy has become the defining topic of the decade.

In the last year, allegations of mass surveillance by the NSA and various other organizations such as Microsoft have been making the media rounds. Even World of Warcraft was recently victimized by the NSA. (So hide your battle ostrich when you get the chance!)

With the increasing availability of drones, questions are rightfully being raised over their usage for acquiring private data. Even the FBI is on record saying that, “warrantless drone surveillance is constitutionally permissible.”

With the propagation of drone technology, there is the capacity for increased surveillance of citizens going about their private lives, and it is not just from law-enforcement drones. There is concern that delivery drones could be used to acquire personal information and spending habits as well. Think of it as an ‘Orwellian’ version of Google maps, if Google maps can be anymore Orwellian than it is.

There are significant issues that need to be addressed before the reality and fantasy of drones can be bridged. Yet even though many of these issues are apparent for all to see, why all the hubbub?

Cheap Publicity: How Amazon took Advantage of the Continued Ethical Debate Over Drones for Capital Gain

 As noted above, drones present a major ethical issue for the military and human rights advocates worldwide. While the drone debate traditionally centered on their military use, Amazon decided to capitalize on the popularity of drones to increase publicity right before the apex of the holiday shopping season.

As noted by Business Insider, Amazon carefully timed the release to coincide with the festive season to increase publicity of their brand. With the coverage that it gained in almost all media outlets, the miniscule amount they paid to get the story aired on 60 Minutes increased their exposure exponentially.

This isn’t the first time that drones have been used in marketing stunts either. Sushi joints and beer companies delivering aerial beer to hipster music festivals have all hopped aboard the drone bandwagon for publicity.

The worrying part about all this is that with all these companies diving on the publicity bandwagon, the ethical concerns and arguments regarding military drones have taken a back seat. Even relatively recently, drones have killed innocents attending a wedding in Yemen. And they weren’t expecting any packages from Amazon either.

 Smoke in the Water

 Most companies and analysts are overblown in their drone proclamation. While we may see drones used in law enforcement or surveillance sometime in the next 10 years, the chances of them being commercially available are slim.

Real problems exist in getting drones into the air. While Venture Capital is banking on drones as the next big thing, the reality of it all indicates that there are so many problems in getting these things off the ground that we won’t see them for at least another 15 years.

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