Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Drones in our World, Part I: From Battlefield to Backyard

This is the first article in an ongoing series examining the role of UAVs - commonly called "drones" - in our lives, as well as the implications and applications of this ever-more common technology.

Part I: The Expanding Tasks of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Remote sensing has played many transformational roles in the world, originally dating back to when Noah sent a dove from the ark and it returned to him with an olive branch. Two millennia later, the peaceful nature of the first remote sensing endeavor was wiped from the slate as it was discovered that aerial vehicles could be tactically useful in warfare. While military interventions are responsible for the technology’s current notoriety, there are myriad new and innovative capabilities that offer immense promise for peacetime use of modern unmanned aerial systems, giving them a role more similar to the one they fulfilled in Noah’s day.

Although "drones" have primarily made headlines as of late for their role in taking out key insurgent leaders and stoking international tensions, they are increasingly being used for less sensational but more vital missions, interventions, and operational support. Beyond the tactical military use, which has provoked debates on sovereignty, and the New York Time's recent article suggesting drones may undermine democracy, unmanned aerial vehicles are also increasingly serving many under-recognized (and sometimes underutilized) purposes. Though healthy dialogue should continue about the controversial ethical issues and outcomes surrounding drone usage in warfare, their utilization and their potential positive contributions should not be dismissed solely because of these concerns. Read More

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