Archive

Monthly Archives: December 2013

Drones have been a hot-button issue for a while now–specifically, President Obama’s use of drone strikes to kill al-Qaeda militants–but the subject has taken on strange new dimensions in recent weeks. The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) has a long and random history which includes sending everything from bats to balloons loaded with bombs into war zones. The UAV’s development was primarily motivated by human kind’s eternal desire to annihilate each other from a comfortable distance.

However, drones are set to begin serving a new, less pernicious function. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos announced this week that Amazon was developing a program that would see its products delivered to customers via UAV. The legal framework is not yet in place to handle such a practice, and there are numerous other logistical and technological kinks to iron out, but Bezos claims he will be ready to implement his plan by 2015. This is probably optimistic, but the technology is there and the Senate is working on the legal aspects. Mother Jones points out one silly flaw with this idea:

“All it could take is an effective drone-destroyer — a hunting rifle? laser weapon? laser pointer? — for a bandit to be watching your movies, wearing your slippers and making smoothies in your blender.”

Because bandits need smoothies too.

Another unconventional use of drones has arisen to address feral hog infestations in the Southern US. This practice has caused its own share of controversy among animal rights activists and hunting purists, but its efficacy is unmatched (pigs are clever and often elude humans). The ridiculousness of this entire situation seems to be lost on most people–how did six million feral pigs manage to storm the US, especially considering their lack of firearm regulation? While I realize that these hogs are a real problem for the Americans whose crops are damaged by these creatures, and that using drones to kill them is pretty inhumane, the image of drone strikes being used to eliminate them is absurd.

But the world in which we live is becoming more absurd each day. As advances in drone technology and self-driving cars converge, we are moving that much closer to The Jetsons’ world of flying cars with personalities of their own. I just hope they invent Rosie soon–my room’s a mess.

Drones have myriad other (less odd) uses too, among them protecting wildlife, assisting search-and-rescue missions, hurricane hunting, and 3D mapping. UAVs will likely prove to do more good than harm, but as in the case of many other technologies of our age, our society will have to grapple with the moral and legal implications of drones’ various uses. This will likely take many years. Until then, the would-be smoothie bandits will have to wait.

Advertisements