Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or drones, are aircraft that can be controlled remotely by a pilot, or by preprogrammed plans or automation systems that enable them to fly autonomously. A large number of industries and organizations are adopting this technology, including military, government, commercial, and recreational users.
As drone technology advances, these aircraft are becoming more common and affordable, giving rise to debates that weigh their benefits against new ethical and legal concerns. As such, the decisions derived from discussing the pros and cons of drones and UAVs is poised to carry a substantial impact on the private and public sector.
Pros of Drones
To properly weigh the pros and cons of drones and their use, it’s important to examine both sides of the debate on their own merits. For instance, there are plenty of positive reasons to use drones.
Quality Aerial Imaging
Drones are excellent for taking high-quality aerial photographs and video, and collecting vast amounts of imaging data. These high-resolution images can be used to create 3-D maps and interactive 3-D models, which have many beneficial uses. For example, 3-D mapping of disaster areas can enable rescue teams to be better prepared before entering hazardous situations.
Since unmanned aerial vehicles use GPS (the Global Positioning System), they can be programmed and maneuvered accurately to precise locations. This is especially helpful in a variety of situations. In precision agriculture, for example, UAVs are used for a variety of farming needs such as spraying fertilizer and insecticide, identifying weed infestations, and monitoring crop health. The precision of UAVs saves farmers both time and cost.
With advances in control technology, most drones can be deployed and operated with relatively minimal experience. Combined with the relatively low cost of most models, drones are becoming accessible to a wide range of operators. UAVs also have a greater range of movement than manned aircraft. They are able to fly lower and in more directions, allowing them to easily navigate traditionally hard-to-access areas.
Another plus to drone use centers on security. With the appropriate license, operators can use unmanned aerial vehicles to provide security and surveillance to private companies, sporting events, public gatherings, and other venues. Drones can also gather valuable data during and after natural disasters to aid in security and recovery efforts.
Cons of Drones
While there are numerous pros to using drones, there are also several perceived challenges to their deployment. These concerns are important to consider, particularly given the wide range of circumstances in which drones can be used.
Since the widespread use of unmanned aerial vehicles is relatively new, legislation is still catching up. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has established certain rules for small, unmanned aircraft that apply to commercial and recreational use, but there are still ambiguities. Questions include how best to determine airspace property rights and protect landowners from aerial trespassing. Further adding to the confusion are conflicts between federal regulations and some state and local laws.
Safety is a primary concern when dealing with unmanned aerial vehicles. To avoid mid-air collisions, UAVs must be programmed with “sense and avoid” capabilities that match those of manned aircraft. This means that drones must be able to detect a potential collision and maneuver to safety. In the event of system failures, falling drones are another serious danger, especially when they are used near large crowds.
One of the most common concerns from the public about UAVs is privacy. Drones can collect data and images without drawing attention, leading many Americans to fear their Fourth Amendment right to privacy may be in jeopardy. This can occur if government entities were to use drones to monitor the public. The way in which the Fourth Amendment is interpreted, and the efforts of privacy rights organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), continue to influence how this issue of privacy is regulated.
Becoming a Voice in the Drone Debate
The benefits of drones and UAVs and the challenges concerning their use make for a robust debate. It’s going to take qualified leaders to make sense of these pros and cons as drone technology advances.
Those who wish to develop key strategies that can help seamlessly integrate drone use into the public and private sector would do well to consider advanced education. Graduates of Ohio University’s online Master of Science in Electrical Engineering program are prepared to research, design, develop, and test new technologies and industry applications.
Discover how this program at Ohio University can help position you to become a leader in the burgeoning field of drone and UAV technology.
BizTech Magazine, 6 Benefits of Drones for Utilities and Energy Companies
Business News Daily, 10 Cool Commercial Drone Uses Come To a Sky Near You
ComputerWorld, 5 Challenges Confronting Enterprise Drones
Drone Guru, The Pros and Cons of Drones in Agriculture
Forbes, Drones Are Here to Stay, But These Four Key Concerns Still Need To Be Addressed
MarketWatch, Drone Delivery Pros and Cons: Consumers Have Concerns About the Technology
Space.com, What Is a Drone?
U.S. Government Accountability Office, Unmanned Aircraft Systems