The virility in the use of advanced technology has prompted most of the United States’ security agencies to step up their overall security using the new emerging arts. Key amongst these is the Homeland Security Department which just like all other security bodies is preparing to initiate the use of drones in their intelligence and law enforcement mandates following the signing of the controversial Federal Aviation Administration bill by President Barrack Obama that allows their use. Drones are referred to as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or UAVs, in the bill, and they are claimed to increase the successful response to national and foreign matters such as floods, homicide, insurgency, rescue operations, and a number of other circumstances that involve an overhead surveillance approach, often in defense (Homeland Security News Wire, 2012).
President Obama signed the bill into law after Congress passed it in February 2012, requiring the military and defense forces to upgrade and fine-tune the not-so-common-now technology, describing it as a crucial and vital step forward in advancing America’s aerial surveillance and stability. The authorization will also be applied to private and commercial UAVs, giving them access to the airspace above America that is now occupied by manned aircraft. This is because such approaches would increase plane landings and takeoffs, which are now reliant on old and complex structures (Wagstaff, 2012). The following section would concentrate on the key points of contention in this debate, which revolve around public safety and privacy in relation to UAV technology.
It’s unclear if the disagreements stem from a foreshadowed conclusion that will inevitably result from the use of UAVs, or from a lack of understanding of how to handle and operate them. However, it’s crucial to comprehend what drones are, how they operate, and what their most significant implications would be. Intelligence departments, including the Homeland Security Department, refer to these robotic behemoths as unmanned aerial vehicles or remotely piloted air systems. Drones have been around for a while, but they’ve only been used in small-scale discrete (military) operations like pursuing and tracking wanted persons in insurgent bases like Pakistan. Drones is designed to be used in conditions that are difficult or dangerous for manned planes to fly over or enter As a result, a more thorough reform of the whole retirement scheme is needed. As a result, a more thorough reform of the whole retirement scheme is needed. As a result, a more thorough reform of the whole retirement scheme is needed. As a result, a more thorough reform of the whole retirement scheme is needed. As a result, a more thorough reform of the whole retirement scheme is needed. As a result, a more thorough reform of the whole retirement scheme is needed. As a result, a more thorough reform of the whole retirement scheme is needed. As a result, a more thorough reform of the whole retirement scheme is needed. As a result, a more thorough reform of the whole retirement scheme is needed. As a result, a more thorough reform of the whole retirement scheme is needed.
Their use dates back to President Bush’s anti-terrorism era, and most likely after 9/11, but the trend has extended and grown viral with the Obama administration. A drone’s size can range from a light form that a human can launch by hand to medium-size and large as the tiny commercial aircraft. Their precision lies in the high speed and attitudes that they can achieve independent of physical human control, in addition to carrying armour and accurately disposing it at their targets without attracting much attention or putting at risk the would-be pilots (“Drones: What Are They”, 2012).
The shape and overall appearance of the drone results from closely-knit scientific assembly and incorporation of complicated circuits and computer systems adapted to executing their aerial mandates with less resistance. They contain multiple sensors, high-definition long-range cameras, radar systems, infra-red systems, laser systems, and strong satellite communication decoders and relaters. They can maintain tens to hundreds of hours in the air, moving across the atmosphere as per their controller’s wish. So how do they work? Each drone is controlled individually and has a satellite system that is manned from the ground. After their launch, they receive commands from control stations through the satellite communication as to what actions they have to execute, and they in turn give response to their ground controllers through videos or images.
All these processes happen silently without the knowledge of the average civilian. Some of the models of drones currently undergoing development in the United States as revealed by Whitehead (2013) are listed herein:
- Hummingbird drones are imitations of hummingbirds and can camouflage with the environment while carrying out their mandates.
- Cyborg drones, which are a project by the Defense Advanced Research Agency, entail the modification of insects into robots. The aim is to use Micro-Electric Mechanical Systems to control insects and use them in collecting intelligence and surveillance.
- Dragonfly drones are insect-sized machines that are so small that they can go into buildings unannounced and take photographs, attack or record videos.
- Nano quadrators are like hummingbird drones but can operate as “swarms” or formations, meaning they can execute much complex operations by forming patterns and navigating obstacles.
The first and largest concern about the unmanned robots is regarding their safety. With the knowledge that they exist in the skies above domestic environments, are they not a potential risk to safety? Recently, in January 2014, a predator B drone crashed to the ground in California at Point Loma, in circumstances defined as mechanical failure by the Department of Homeland security. However, the mechanical failure has not yet been identified (“Homeland’s Crashed Drone”, 2014). This event plus the accompanying explanation are enough to freeze the spines of Americans now that the Congress passed the bill to allow their numbers to increase in the skies. This is further worsened by the fact that soon, these robots will be armed, this time with advanced weaponry. For instance, what happens in the future in case a drone loaded with say an atomic bomb develops mechanical problems and crashes into the New York population? Worse consequences than 9/11, of course, an occurrence that would be ironic in that drones are indirectly linked to preventing such reoccurrences. This leaves a majority group wondering whether the solution to a problem will become the same problem again. The American Civil Liberties Union came out to oppose the signing of the bill, arguing that when it is a right move to have drones, it is also important to consider their effects on human safety, security, and privacy (Wittes, 2012).
The second concern regarding the drone technology is the invasion of privacy. As Goglia (2013) writes, it is not about the interception of SMS’s, emails or phone calls but a potential violation by the use of drones. He reveals that the FAA, in close association with Homeland Security and Departmentthe of Defense, are about to indulge in a massive collecting, storing and analyzing secretly collected information. The reason why privacy is such a concern is not merely because anyone intends to commit a crime or breach the law in any way but its because with their micro sizes, these drones will be able to access living rooms, offices, bedrooms and just any other place that they can fit into. The problem with this is that just like a policeman with a gun can misuse the weapon and use it maliciously, then drones too are a potential tool of misuse. American homes and offices will no longer be as discreet as they used to be before this technology. Home privacy will be invaded in that how sure will anyone be that a drone is not sitting at their window watching them dressing up in their bedrooms? When it comes to offices, nobody is certain as to who is controlling a drone and using it to record their confidential data that is meant to be private. These worries are made even worse by the fact that in addition to the security and intelligence bodies, commercial and private agencies are also eligible to fly and maintain their own drones. This is because while the conduct of trained security personnel is somehow dignified thus trusted by the public, nobody is sure about private bodies.
In retaliation to both concerns, state agencies have come out to defend the ongoing advancement of drone technology. On the issue of misuse thus breach of privacy, the general response is that such projects cannot be grounded simply because somebody might misuse them in ways such as invading the privacy of others. Rather, the agencies strive to hire and train the right personnel on what is expected of them when using the mentioned technologies. They compare this to any crime scene where a security man shoots at anyone. There is an examination of the reason for the shooting, and in any case there is evidence of misconduct, the individual is apprehended and charged appropriately in court. Concisely, all (security) measures are put in place with outmost consideration for social norms, and drones in that matter, will not conduct random but specific surveillance where due (Wittes, 2012).
On matters safety, Homeland Security News Wire (2012) counters the use of drones as posing a threat to safety by stating that the FAA in 2013 established testing sites for UAV’s set furthest from domestic populations. The move is aimed at developing safety and rules of operations for them in order to reduce the risk of causing unnecessary safety scares. Further information exposed is that the FAA mandated up to six organizations to deal with six main concerns of UAV operations. These include operation in varying climatic conditions, navigation in congested airspaces, impact of humans on drones, rules for determining the worthiness of air-borne drones, and identification as well as mitigation measures for risk areas of UAV’s.
In conclusion, it is mandatory for the concerned bodies to address the issues raised by the wider civilian majority by inventing and disseminating measures that are sufficient in convincing them that the UAV technology is in no way harmful or contradictive of their lifestyles. Rather than rush to meet the four-year deadline set by Congress in implementation of the science, the FAA should slow down and consider both negative and positive attributes to this project before rolling it out. On the other side, we must ourselves understand that these measures aim at protecting us, and in as much as they pose some dangers or negative concerns towards us, it is our mandate and right to raise the relevant issues regarding UAV’s and insist on revision for any loopholes that show up. We need security, yes, but that should not in any way look down on our privacy and safety.
- Drones: What are they and how do they work? (2012, January 31). BBC.co.uk. Retrieved 21 February 2014 from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-10713898
- Goglia, J. (2013, August 11). Think NSA is Invading Privacy? Better Read FAA’s Plan To Integrate Drones Into US Airspace. Forbes. Com. Retrieved 21 February 2014 from http://www.forbes.com/sites/johngoglia/2013/11/08/think-nsa-is-invading-privacy-better-read-faas-plan-to-integrate-drones-into-us-airspace/
- Homeland Security News Wire. (2012, December 21). Seattle Debates use of Drones by Police. Retrieved 21 February 2014 from http://www.homelandsecuritynewswire.com/dr20121221-seattle-debates-use-of-drones-by-police
- Homeland Security’s Crashed Drone is a Problem for the FAA. (2014, January 29). Motherboard.Vice. Retrieved 21 February 2014 from http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/homeland-securitys-crashed-drone-is-a-problem-for-the-faa
- Wagstaff, K. (2012, February 8). Congress Paves Way for Unmanned Drones in U.S. Commercial Airspace. Techland.Time. Retrieved 21 February 2014 from http://techland.time.com/2012/02/08/congress-paves-way-for-unmanned-drones-in-u-s-commercial-airspace/
- Whitehead, J., W. (2013, April 4). Roaches, Mosquitoes and Birds: The Coming Micro-Drone Revolution. Huffington Post. Retrieved 21 February 2014 from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-w-whitehead/micro-drones_b_3084965.html
- Wittes, B. (2012, April 4). The Impact of Domestic Drones on Privacy, Safety, and National Security. Bookings. Retrieved 21 February 2014 from http://www.brookings.edu/events/2012/04/04-domestic-drones