Drones: the good, the bad and the ugly

To the tech nerd they are possibly the new craze on the block. Anyone who has seen a drone in the There is no doubt that the use of drones will continue to increase. So too will the applications for which they are used. Most applications will be perfectly legitimate and some even beneficial. But there will also be applications for which drone use must be frowned upon. So, taking a play on the title of the movie “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, how do drones stack up?

The Good

Anyone who has been in Christchurch involved with the demolition of unstable buildings or ones in tricky to reach spots where foot access may not be practical, the use of drones to ascertain the layout of the property and identify hazards might well be the safest and easiest option. With a camera and live data stream back to the operator, its ability to quickly get an overview in real time and relay the data ensures that not only can the operator see what is going on, but can refer back as necessary.

I first saw a drone with absolute clarity when the Christchurch Police Station was imploded at the end of May 2015. Hovering overhead at about 70 metres, with its owner on the roof of an adjacent building it was one of several used to record the very public felling, watched both in person and on the internet by thousands of people, thanks to its data stream.

The bad

Unfortunately there are a few users out there who are likely to have malicious intents. There will also be a few out there who have not considered privacy issues, or not thought about the hazards of launching drones around facilities such as airports where public safety could be jeopardized. These are the users who need to be cautioned before they break the law or wonder why someone tried to down their drone. Most will comply, but the ones that do not should have their machines confiscated.

The ugly

Drones also have military uses. Whilst some of the uses might be good, such as conducting surveillance over large areas of territory, drones have been implicated in some very questionable attacks in the so called “War on Terrorism”. These attacks have stemmed from attempts to liquidate senior Islamic State officials as well as al-Qaida militants among others. In doing so they have exposed a very grey area of international law in terms of assassinations and invading other nations air space. But more tragically drones have murdered innocent people. Wedding parties have been an unfortunate but common target. No one has been charged with anything yet and the U.S. military says the orders come from senior military officers or the C.I.A.

And a cautionary tale

However, there are privacy issues that go with remote controlled drones, whose operator cannot be seen. In the week just ending Domino’s pizza announced it was working with the Government to develop a drone that could deliver pizza’s to a person’s door. Although this might seem economical to Domino’s as it would avoid having to pay staff to deliver the pizza’s by foot, serious and perhaps irreconcilable issues with the customers privacy may arise.  This is because the drone will be storing data necessary for it to fly to the location where the customer lives. In the time it takes at the property delivering the pizza’s it could be collecting data about the layout of the property and activities, or people living there gathered by its video feed. The customer will only have Domino’s – most likely spoken and not written – word that it wipes the data from the drone and does not store it in any form.



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