The 2 Biggest Myths About Drones

Most people only know drones through what they see on TV. But there’s much more to UAVs than that.

No matter if you are for or against unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones, there is no doubt that all of us will be involved with them in some way or the other in a few years (many of us are already there).

Frequent stories about UAVs involved in illegal or dangerous activities, such as flying too close to airports and approaching aircraft, hindering firefighters while carrying out their duties and invading domestic privacy, paint a scary future. People are starting to wonder if UAVs will run their daily lives and some even believe that these machines will develop self-awareness that will threaten the human species and force us all to fight for survival.

Let’s take this thought and travel back in time for a moment…

Since ancient times, humans have always feared new technology. Peter Rosegger, one of Austria’s great writer and poets, described the railway for the first time with his Godfather, who associated this piece of machinery with the devil (a great read, but of course it’s in German and the translation doesn’t do it justice). Although we are much more accustomed to modern technology, and usually don’t blame higher powers for technology anymore, the fear is still present.

People like to treat UAVs as autonomous robots that must be blamed and vilified for all they do. States all over the US are looking into new drone-specific laws to protect the masses and curtail the advances by the machines, with new regulations that attempt to restrict flight over private property or taking unauthorized photography. Before you decide that UAVs are the worst invention ever, here are the two typically polarizing misconceptions about UAVs that we should overcome in time for their commercial take off:

MYTH 1: “UAVs are only used for spying on innocent people or used as killing machines.”

A lot of people asked to describe today’s UAVs will usually think about Multirotors buzzing over private property and capturing imagery to be posted on Facebook and Twitter, or the military versions carrying ammunition like the General Atomics Predator. While these are around, they are far from the only versions. Taking imagery from above is certainly a major capability, but despite what people think, various industries are benefactors of this technology.

For instance, in the agricultural fields, UAVs are already supplying farmers with valuable data to make informed decisions regarding where and when to water their crops, analyze soil conditions or even get warnings about unwanted pests moving in. Scientists utilize them to learn new, exciting truths about our planet, and many other companies are already thinking about how to utilize them for transportation or inspection tasks that currently require a ton of resources to complete.

People have always been fearful of new technology, including UAVs.

One of the common fears that people automatically have when those areas are named is the fear of losing their job to a machine — but in fact, the need to maintain them will open up entire new areas for jobseekers. Just like people feared that the steamship would replace the need for sailmakers, we overcame it.

New technology doesn’t mean people will sit idle while the machine completes their task, but rather that new opportunities open up. And with the potential for nefarious purposes, there exist brand new potential careers. Perhaps in the future a valuable job could be “UAV Investigator” or “UAV Case Manager” who function similarly to a detective in the UAV space. There will also be new lawyers and insurance agents focusing solely on UAV technologies and unmanned systems as a whole. 

Related: Florida State Students Learning to Use Drones to Assist Hurricane Emergency Response

As for the belief that they are all killing machines, this is another misrepresentation about UAV technology.

First, not every (actually very few) UAVs in today’s military are used to carry ammunition. The majority of UAVs in the military’s arsenal are used to provide near-real time intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) support to the warfighter on the ground. Having this type of capability wasn’t around even 20 years ago. As the military tactics changed from strategic threats from Russia to terrorism with guerilla style tactics, having this type of intelligence available became invaluable to the boots on the ground. Of course, there are certain UAVs that are being used as a weapons platform, but these products are not the mindless terminator machines that media is trying to portray.

Click here for myth 2…

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