Out with the Old and in with the Drone

At least according to the department’s policy: “Any private or sensitive information collected that is not deemed evidence will be deleted.” It goes on to say, “Any flight that has been deemed a search under the 4th Amendment and does not fall under court approved exceptions will require a warrant.”

So what falls under court approved exceptions? What about covert FBI or CIA missions? Would the 4th Amendment still apply then?

Still, drones and UAV regulations are only in their infancy. Both legislators and police forces are delving into uncharted territory, as there isn’t a proven path to follow regarding the flight of domestic unmanned planes. This means there is plenty of room for errors as this experiment unfolds, with potentially disastrous consequences.

“All it takes is one department to get some goofy system and do something stupid,” Marc Sharpe, a constable of the Ontario Provincial Police, told The Star. “I don‘t want the cowboy departments getting something or doing something that’s dumb – that will affect us all.”

Will legislation become more lax with time as UAV use and normalization grow? Especially when considering if, over time, private security forces or major corporations will be allowed to use drones. Perhaps even ordinary citizens would. Could drones, then, be the future tools for extortion and blackmail?

Many look to 2015 for answers. The year will be a turning point for UAVs, as the US airspace will expand regulations and increase authorized airspace for drones (either operated by military, commercial or private sectors).

The Uncertain Future

Bill Gates recently made headlines, dishing out some harsh truths about the future labour market. Gates warned that robots are coming after our jobs as humans become increasingly obsolete in the face of advancing technologies.

With unmanned drones on the horizon, police officers appear to be of the first headed to the chopping block. Already, 36 law enforcement agencies around the United States are running UAV programs. Besides the prospect of major lay-offs, this could have far more severe ramifications on the justice system.

It’s not exactly presumptuous to think that police UAVs may ultimately evolve beyond serving as search and rescue tools and aerial scoping agents. 50 years from now, 100 years from how, how will we use drones?

The prospect of replacing police cars and the officers that drive them with unmanned drones means that we are gradually removing the human element from the equation. The ability to empathize, rationalize, and be compassionate are distinctly human traits – ones that machinery, robots nor software can replicate (at least for now).

Chad Posick of Northeastern University stresses that empathy plays a critical role in crime, policing and justice: “Showing empathy, we know, increases trust and confidence in the police,” writes Posick. “And when citizens have greater trust in the police during daily interactions, officers get more cooperation and find it easier to protect themselves along with the communities they serve.”

Will the public fall victim to a strict and ruthlessly unwavering interoperation of the law dictated through algorithms, codes and the insentient? Or, as UAV use grows and their role in crime fighting increases, will they help protect citizens? Will justice prevail?


Hyder Owainati is a graduate from the University of Toronto who loves to write short stories, read books and collect comics. You can follow his work at 

Show more