CIVIL AND SOCIAL USES OF DRONES

| November 13, 2016

The history of flying robots dates back to the 1940s when they were first used in the World War II. Most of the early versions of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were crudely designed and served the single purpose of transporting or acting as weapons of destruction. With time, technological innovations led to the invention of more advanced varieties of drones that use intelligence, collect data, dispatch communication, and respond to instances affecting their operations. It is such developments that led to the expansion of the usage of drones from military to civilian.[1] Today, active and evolving civil and social uses of drones include business deliveries, monitoring climatic conditions, environmental surveillance, and agricultural observation.

A 2013 press release by Amazon.com indicated that the organization had plans of initiating the unmanned delivery of small items via its service wing branded Amazon Prime Air. This would see the use of drones extended to business deliveries with the reduction of costs in one of the most time saving approaches. The presentation was accompanied with a practical demonstration of deliveries successfully made by Amazon.com to experimental destinations. This approach may be marked as one of the greatest breakthroughs in using drones in non-military functions. Other organizations plan to use drones in delivering medicine to war and catastrophe stricken zones, delivering text books on demand, and other supplies.[2]

However, this idea still has to overcome a lot of technical challenges. While it may look like a golden idea, the number of unwatched drones flying American and other airspaces are increasingly high. Because of the interaction of control frequencies, this may make drone flights unsuccessful. Strikingly, many drones have poor maneuvering capabilities and high crash weights compared to manned flights. Additionally, their proximity sensitivity of obstructive objects is not very high. As a result, many drones crash on trees, tall buildings, and other objects. Perhaps, security concerns relating to the usage of drones are the most sensitive. A 2013 demonstration by the Department of Homeland Security indicated that it is possible to hack the control systems of drones and direct them elsewhere. Before civilians rejoice over drones, this point would create a breeding spot for crime and destructive occurrences. In fact, security agencies in Georgia reported the use of drones in attempts to deliver cigarettes and other drugs into prisons in 2013.[3]

Apart from deliveries, the other most notable civilian uses of drones are in agriculture, wildlife, and environmental monitoring. The last two involve wildlife services and environmental organizations. Because drones access geographical regions through flights, they can fly over impassable areas and collect data on animals and plants. This saves time and the lives of scientists who would have to pass through dangerous areas. In agriculture, drones have emerged as the most relevant tools for surveying crops and animals kept in large-scale farming.[4] Because of their swiftness and convenience, many technologies are exploring increased applications in aiding non-military tasks.

In conclusion, drones were first used in the World War II as carriers of unmanned weapons. Since then, numerous evolutions have seen their uses expanded to non-military spectra. Currently, the most common evolving civil and social uses of drones include business deliveries, monitoring climatic conditions, environmental surveillance, and agricultural observation. Although these may appear attractive, the use of UAVs still has to overcome various challenges. These encompass poor sensitivity to obstructions and criminal tendencies in their usage.

 

Bibliography

Ahmed, Akbar. The Thistle and the Drone: How America’s War on Terror Became a Global War on Tribal Islam. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2013.

Arkin, William. Unmanned: Drones, Data, and the Illusion of Perfect Warfare. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2015.

Kreps, Sarah. Drones: What Everyone Needs to Know. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.

Zavrnik, Ale. Drones and Unmanned Aerial Systems. New York: Springer International Publishing, 2016.

[1]. Zavrnik, Ale. Drones and Unmanned Aerial Systems (New York: Springer International Publishing, 2016), 133.

[2]. Ahmed, Akbar. The Thistle and the Drone: How America’s War on Terror Became a Global War on Tribal Islam (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2013), 227.

[3]. Arkin, William. Unmanned: Drones, Data, and the Illusion of Perfect Warfare (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2015), 19.

[4]. Kreps, Sarah. Drones: What Everyone Needs to Know (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), 138.

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