Privacy Concerns Shouldn’t Limit The Use of Autonomous Drones

April 13, 2013

The last thing Google’s Eric Schmidt wants to see is a drone hovering over his yard. Not the kind of drone which drops missiles and kills people in Pakistan, mind you, but the kind you can take out of a box and just let loose. The kind of drone that civilians can, and likely will, use in the near future. That’s why, Schmidt argues, they need to be regulated before they even become an issue.

Schmidt’s concerns lie with potential, if petty, privacy abuses for drones, posing this potential problem to The Guardian:

You’re having a dispute with your neighbor. How would you feel if your neighbor went over and bought a commercial observation drone that they can launch from their backyard. It just flies over your house all day. How would you feel about it?’

He goes on to say that the prolific use of drones could enable terrorists and ne’er do wells, and prefers not to “democratize the ability to fight war to every single human being.”

There’s one problem with Schmidt’s regulatory vision of drones: money. There’s simply too much money on the table for civilian and private enterprises to forgo the use drones due to — completely legitimate — privacy concerns. That’s because fueling and piloting helicopters requires a large heap of money for when it’s necessary; especially when monitoring a large swath of land like, say, an oil pipeline.

These type of drones, which would seek out potential oil leaks, plot rivers, find lost hikers and ships gone astray are, technically, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and require a pilot’s license. The FAA already regulates and requries certifications for these UAVs.

But the drones in question are scarcely like the above UAVs and the Predator drones used by the U.S. military. They’re the kind regulated to stay within remote control radio range and stay below 400 feet. They’re the short-term fliers which could be automated depending on the needs of the user. They will be common, like it or not.

Security, is one reason why they’ll become commonplace. A team of two or three drones can provide 24 hour surveillance of constructions sites or private property without hiring a dozen guards. Drones could also (and in some cases already are) used to cover emergency situations like earthquakes.

Finally, drones have the potential to become a common delivery system — and we’re not talking satire. A nonprofit organization called ReAllocate developed a 2012 Burning Man project called “Blue Sky” which would deliver 3D-printed models of an attendee via drone. The attendees would strike a pose in a pavilion, get scanned by a hacked Kinect camera, and take a GPS receiver when they leave so the drones could track them down and deliver their goods.

Such an autonomous system isn’t inconceivable outside of a festival: most smartphones carry with them some form of accurate tracking system which could be used in lieu of a GPS. And an autonomous drone convoy could deliver important medications, supplies and goods to those in need or in hard to reach areas of the world.  To regulate this sort of industry out of existence would be foolish.

So are we doomed to a world with quadcopters hovering over our every movement, peering into our bedroom windows? Probably not, though there are legitimate worries over privacy with very little in the way of a potential solution. But that’s another post for another time.

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5 Responses to “Privacy Concerns Shouldn’t Limit The Use of Autonomous Drones”

  1. Peter Cao:

    Eric Schmidt is a member in a fascism circle, so is Kaifu Lee, etc. who had involved into a series fascism crimes which had endangered human lives and in retaliation against victims; so far fascism they had produced into our lives still prevails;

  2. Peter Cao:

    Kaifu Lee is a cat’s paw in a fascism circle and he had involved into a series of fascism crimes and he had collateralled with certain malicious officers ZZZ/YYY/VVV to conspire victim as I am; Kaifu Lee’s vice in China started from his self-potraited cleverness; He often takes advantage of his cleverness to fool the average Chinese people, and take advantages of the average Chinese people with his strong foriegn background;

    And in case of Kaifu Lee’s racy action on the Romneys, he is trying to fawn on Romney’s political rivals in the U.S., in order to bum for support from them to get Lee himself back to Google which Lee had abandoned to start his personal business in 2009; Kaifu Lee’s such despicable action has misled belief of Chinese people over American people, and also is a clear humiliation to the dignity of the people of the United States

    — Such a despicable behavior from such a despicable soul

    — Obviously, Lee’s vice had been harmful to both Chinese people and to the U.S. people

    — I personally would not allow such a despicable soul from surviving in Chinese society;

  3. Peter Cao:

    — Other than owing an earnest formal public apology to the Romneys, Kaifu Lee owes all Chinese people he had taken advantages of (e.g. Deng Yaping, Kaifu Lee had trapped Deng in collateral with one of his buddies whom he recomended to Deng;, and an innocent girl of underage whom Kaifu Lee had publicly misguided to tolerate lewd and racy humiliation from some web-thugs, till today, Kaifu Lee still insist he did it in good will though he would not blame those thugs) an earnest formal public apology as well;

    If Kaifu Lee stirs trouble to anyone again, just tell Kaifu Lee to come to me directly to have a reason my contact: caomingpeter AT 163 DOT com; if he dare not, don’t consider him trustworthy; I am a Ghost-buster; and in light of my accustaions, such a degenerate soul as Kaifu Lee would always be tamed and subdued

  4. Peter Cao:

    Kaifu Lee, who self-claimed to be an educator to Chinese youth, has actually had a degenerated soul that is no better than a thug, which is evidenced again when he tried to ‘educate’ an innocent underage, in name of freedom of speech, to ‘tolerate’ lewd and racy terms when some web-thugs humiliated the underage;

    Is there any credibility we want to vest in such a sanctimonious and lewd ‘educator’ Kaifu Lee to educate our children? Would anyone like to show respect to Kaifu Lee, who refuses to condemn some degenerate thugs who had humiliated an underage with racy terms, but rush to tell the underage to tolerate the intolerable? Would anyone allow such a degenerate soul like Kaifu Lee to manipulate the worldview of our youth generation?

    Kaifu Lee needs to have some integrity and honesty, a candid heart from inside out, before he would have some credibility to be trusted. But the real Kaifu Lee is a non-eastern, non-western, disloyal, dishonest personnel, who supports his fame by way of stirring up troubles among others; Kaifu Lee is a curse to Chinese people, as well as to American people, a typical quack whose philosophy would be troubles to both the youth and the adult.

  5. Peter Cao:

    Kaifu Lee is a fascist who has built-up his achievements by way of entrapping others; Kaifu Lee’s philosophy has produce troubles wherever it applies; His schemes to take advantages of his former employers of both Miscrosoft and Google had evidenced such troublesome nature in his philosophy as immoral, disloyal, dishonest, and profiteer at cost of others; He had done so not only in his career affairs, but also on other issues which had intruded into our daily lives; Kaifu Lee had routinely mischief average Chinese people to gain personal advancement (I am one case), and he had loaded himself full of sins in Chinese society; Such a denegerate soul Kaifu Lee should disappear from Chinese Society;

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