HBR: Don't Let Politics Shoot Down Potential of Domestic Drones

Good piece from Harvard Business Review. Excerpts:

Mass-market drones clearly hold potential for what Paul Nunes and I call "big bang disruption." This is a kind of innovation that, thanks to fast-evolving technology, arrives in the marketplace simultaneously better, cheaper, and more capable of improving than the existing alternatives.

....

As George Mason University's Jerry Brito pointed out in a thoughtful essay last month, "Small drones are made from many of the same components as smartphones, and the economies of scale of that industry have driven the cost of gyroscopes, accelerometers, GPS chips, and CPUs to the ground. As a result," Brito writes, "the widespread use of drones in commerce is imminent — unless politicians overreact to the bad press."

That last phrase, of course, is a big "unless." The FAA's impending deadline has created panic among state and local governments, who are falling over each other to legislate who gets to use drones and for what purposes before the FAA rules are issued. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, thirty states have already passed or are considering restrictions on drones, if not outright bans.

Local authorities are getting in on the pre-regulation act as well. Recently, the town of Rancho Mirage, CA joined Charlottesville, VA, St. Bonifaciuis, MN, and Seattle, WA in considering or adopting local rules restricting or prohibiting drones in their respective communities. In Alameda County, near where I live, a public hearing on a plan by the sheriff to deploy drones for law enforcement quickly turned ugly. "We oppose the use of public resources to buy machines to surveil its citizens," one resident was quoted as saying. Another rejected just the potential use of drones by the police as "an assault on my community."

It's not surprising that potential private and law enforcement use of drones invokes intense emotional responses, including fears of an expanded police state with an "eye in the sky" and the further erosion of personal privacy. The Rancho Mirage ordinance, for example, had its origins when a private citizen saw a model drone flying over his backyard. He asked the operators to relocate their activities, and they did. But he wrote to his mayor the next day anyway.

The visceral objection we're seeing to drones is a great example of the "creepy response" I wrote about in a previous post. Novel uses of information technology often trigger deeply negative emotions, particularly among Americans. The truth is that we usually adjust to the new technology by coming to recognize that its benefits outweigh the costs. In the interim, however, the temptation to regulate it out of existence is hard to resist.

And of course, the use of the term "drone" doesn't help. Drones, like many of the most valuable innovations of the past century, began life as military technology, and have notably been used for targeted killings as part of the so-called "war on terror." Hobbyists have made a serious tactical error in adopting the same term for unmanned aircraft that, at least so far, have no weapons attached to them.

As understandable as the psychological response may be, however, there is a serious problem with the rush to regulate. Overreacting to fears of the unknown could prove disastrous to the development of technology with tremendous potential to benefit society. Drones could make safer and cheaper a number of essential activities that today require human pilots, and also make other activities possible that are today simply unfeasible. These include emergency transportation of supplies to remote areas, agricultural monitoring and maintenance, aerial photography and mapping, protection of wildlife from poachers, pipeline inspection — perhaps even local delivery.

As with any emerging, potentially revolutionary new technology, it is impossible to anticipate all the uses to which unmanned aircraft might be put once they reach mass markets. And therefore, it is hard to know whether existing laws are adequate to limit or ban the potentially destructive uses. Indeed, many of the local authorities considering drone legislation believe the FAA's current restrictions give them a rare opportunity to regulate before a dangerous new technology gets a chance to become mainstream. "We certainly want to get ahead of that curve before there are some abuses of that information," one Virginia legislator said.

As drones continue to become better, cheaper, and more useful, the legal debate is sure to heat up. But until and unless we get more evidence of what "abuses" will actually appear, drafting appropriate laws will be impossible. The mishmash of laws, restrictions, and bans add up to a response that is inefficient, imprecise, bound to cause collateral damage — and certainly not worthy of a drone.

Views: 472


Admin
Comment by Thomas J Coyle III on April 23, 2013 at 9:53am

Nice analysis of emerging regulations at the state and local levels prior to the FAA regulations becoming law.

This seems much like the way states regulate cars and drivers . Each state has a different set of automotive and driver ordinances none two which are the same. If your drone happens to cross a state or county line while you are flying will it be banned in the other state or county? Drone operators will have to stock a complete set of state and county ordinances for each area they might operate in to ensure that they are not violating some unknown state or local ordinance. Nothing like consistency!:-)

Regards,

TCIII


Moderator
Comment by Gary Mortimer on April 23, 2013 at 11:13am

Don't worry they are mainstream in the rest of the world so we will all come train you guys.


Admin
Comment by Morli on April 23, 2013 at 12:04pm

"We oppose the use of public resources to buy machines to surveil its citizens," one resident was quoted as saying. Another rejected just the potential use of drones by the police as "an assault on my community."

I wonder and assume the following in the communities(e.g. Rancho Mirage ordinance) that object.

1. They don't have police patrolling their neighborhood to keep it safe. If yes then in my jargon it is surveillance.

2.  or while on patrol  the police are not allowed to look sidewise.

3. They( police) have to walk and not allowed to use any vehicles or use personal vehicles only on job.

4. The people in these communities have lot to hide,  either they run/live nude( intrusion of their personal privacy)

5. or the citizen's intentions are not so honorable when the back yard space is concerned and use these objections under the veil of privacy

6. They don't mind eye in the street, eye in the bank, door steps etc etc and any eye placed not higher than say 5 meters and want the eyes every where else except their backyard !?

7. these communities consider their police/neighbor hood watch team to be peeping toms.

8.  these communities want their police to catch the criminals without easily able to find using such technologies

9. should Not find the victims with " eyes in sky " in search and rescue mission or in disaster situation

now which is it?

Comment by Jon on April 23, 2013 at 1:50pm

"And of course, the use of the term "drone" doesn't help."

"Hobbyists have made a serious tactical error in adopting the same term for unmanned aircraft that, at least so far, have no weapons attached to them."

Couldn't agree more. The term 'drone' seems to take an immediate negative connotation in general

Comment by Superwalloon on April 23, 2013 at 1:51pm

It is not about the technology being used, it's about privacy protection laws. There are already privacy protection laws in place (and potentially more in Europe where I live than in the US) and these are the laws that need to be enforced. Otherwise that "citizens watch over citizens" paranoia should result in special regulations for binoculars, for telescopes, for microscopes, for webcams and netcams and basically any technology that enhances or "teleport" human vision such as, yes, drones or fpv r/c.

Comment

You need to be a member of DIY Drones to add comments!

Join DIY Drones

Groups

Season Two of the Trust Time Trial (T3) Contest 
A list of all T3 contests is here. The current round, the Vertical Horizontal one, is here

© 2019   Created by Chris Anderson.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service