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Moser: Drone Aircraft an Aerodynamic Smart Phone

Did you see this video of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV or better known as drone) being knocked out of the sky by group of rowdy hockey fans who were celebrating the LA Kings taking home the Stanley Cup?

The video disturbed me on a number of levels. First, in the description, the words “rowdy” and “celebration” are used. I think that language diminished the impact of the crime. It sounds like a bunch of children were misbehaving instead of destroying an expensive piece of police equipment.

Then, I am perturbed by the number of people who condemn all UAV as an invasion of privacy.  I’m not a fan of anyone infringing on my privacy, but I absolutely am willing to forego my sensitivity for the safety of all at a much reduced price. I know a bargain when I see one!

These unmanned aircraft are here and they are really just the aerodynamic version of smart phones. Everywhere we go, people are taking our pictures, recording video, sharing map coordinates.

I’ve heard many bitter complaints that police don’t patrol our neighborhoods and help prevent crime. Well, we apparently can’t afford for police to patrol our neighborhoods. We don’t want to pay higher taxes to pay salary and benefits and purchase additional patrol cars with the maintenance and depreciation associated. (Obviously, we CAN put a price on safety!)

A police helicopter runs anywhere from $500,000 to $3 million. I couldn’t locate any solid figures for the price of a police UAV, but It is going to be much cheaper to operate a drone that can cover many miles quickly than officers in a patrol cars or helicopters.

Because Congress authorized the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to open the nation’s airspace to widespread drone flights by 2015, estimates are there will be 7,000 civilian drones in the skies by 2020.

We’ll be seeing package delivery and pizza delivery. We’ll be getting better traffic reports. We’ll be getting better photos than your cell phones!

I’m not too concerned about privacy, but I am concerned we are adding more and more people to the world and that robotic engineering is removing more and more people from the workforce. Building UAV creates jobs, but if one drone can replace ten patrol officers, one robot can replace ten restaurant employees, one assembly line robot can replace ten auto plant employees there’s going to be a lot of idle folks out here.

Here’s my favorite research article for this column. It shows many different insect and nano drones.

If you’d like to view a discussion of the ethics and legalities on a local level, the PW Committee of 100 held a great forum on the topic in May and you can view that here.

I love technology. I’m not afraid of losing my privacy because I think it’s much too late to be having that conversation, but there is a lot going on that we mere mortals are not considering. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to let me know what you think.

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