In many parts of the world, if ‘drone’ doesn’t strike fear into the heart of the person who hears it, it will more than likely stir anger.
According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism there have been 380 CIA drone strikes on Pakistan. As many as 3,600 people have been reported killed — 200 of those may have been children. Pakistanis fill the streets; picketing the American embassy, burning effigies of Obama — urging him to call off attacks.
In America an unmanned air vehicle lifts a package into the air. Its load is concealed, but the logo on the side gives away its cargo— ‘Amazon’. Boss Jeff Bezos has announced trials of drone deliveries. ”I know this looks like science fiction. It’s not”.
A force for good
Drones could revolutionise — and democratise — how we live our lives. They have the power to go to areas and gather information that is too costly or too risky to normally reach.
Drones have been tested in Haiti to help deliver supplies to areas cut off by poor transport links. They’ve also been used to map how the terrain changed after the earthquake in 2010 and hurricane Sandy in 2012 — helping support networks know how and where to distribute aid.
In Australia, unmanned aircraft could be used to monitor how wildfires spread – if regulations were changed. They have the capacity to pinpoint fire lines in the bush— providing information to authorities on the ground.
A world unknown
And for journalists — professional and citizen alike — drones could provide a new way to collect and share information. The average man (with money to spend) could get his own take on a story — not relying on major networks’ helicopters and their view.
It can also provide us with images that would require aircraft that is too costly . Work like that from Lewis Whyld of the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan is beautiful and shocking all at once.
A recent report suggests the economic benefits of unmanned aircraft could be great too. By 2025, drones could create an estimated 100,000 jobs, and provide an ‘economic impact’ of $82bn in the USA. It lists aerial mapping, weather monitoring and agriculture as just some of the sectors that could benefit from the technology.
Getting to grips
But how do you reconcile that on one side of the world unmanned aircraft are killers? The other, potential liberators?
For now, the use of drones in the West is curtailed by airspace regulations. Before news organisations can hope to map a pile-up on the M1, or the aftermath of Britain’s coldest winter, they’ll have to convince authorities they can use the technology safely.
And they’ll have to convince themselves, and the public, that the drones they’ve heard tales of — wreaking havoc in a far off land — are nothing but a distant hum. Here in the West, it’s just drones for good.
image credit: Dkroetsch; Nicolas Halftermeyer