While some matches are made in heaven (consider 3D printing and drones), mashing two technologies together doesn’t always have positive results. Consider a world where police drones are armed with handguns and automatic weapons. Certainly allowing the average person to modify their drones in such a way raises all kinds of alarm bells. But what
While some matches are made in heaven (consider 3D printing and drones), mashing two technologies together doesn’t always have positive results. Consider a world where police drones are armed with handguns and automatic weapons. Certainly allowing the average person to modify their drones in such a way raises all kinds of alarm bells.
But what about allowing law enforcement agencies to arm their drones to stop crime without actually being at the crime scene? Does such a reality appeal to you?
Dangers Involved with Armed Drones
So why should we be concerned about gun-mounted drones, if they are in the hands of law enforcement? There are many potential concerns yet to be addressed. For instance:
- UAV Out of Radio Control: If an armed UAV were to slip out of radio control and crash, the results could be catastrophic if it landed in the hands of criminals or opportunists who could of who would use it for ill.
- Malicious Theft: Malicious individuals could use jamming technology to disrupt the radio signals between operator and armed drone, perhaps even taking control of the drone. The risk of police technology being used by the criminal element is equally disturbing.
- Weapons Malfunction: Could a malfunctioning drone or weapon result in unintended fatalities? Even drones equipped with less lethal weaponry such as bean bags and pepper spray could cause serious injury if they were to malfunction.
- Legality of the Use: How do we regulate the use of armed drones by authorities? Should they be required to have a search or arrest warrant?
- Data Breaches: What of the confidentiality of video footage captured by these drones. Should the police be allowed to acquire and maintain such footage of civilians who are not suspected of any wrongdoing?
Clearly we need many further software and hardware advancements before we can see our way to the safe and acceptable use of gun-mounted drones by the police, but the potential is definitely there for this to be useful technology for good.
Current Events: Weaponized UAVs Around the Globe
Various law enforcement authorities around the globe are already welcoming the idea of using weaponized drones to control crime. While we don’t have many examples of their implementation yet, you can see from the following that the results are sometimes be good and sometimes not so much:
- Pepper Spray Drones in India: Police in India are planning to introduce drones equipped with pepper spray to disperse violent protestors. This is a great use of the technology because it is effective from a law enforcement perspective and improves the safety of officers. Using conventional tactics, police would have to engage the violent protesters directly, resulting in a high likelihood of further aggravating the situation.
- Non-Lethal Weaponized Drones in US: North Dakota has allowed police drones to be kitted out with non-lethal weapons such as pepper spray, tasers, and other such equipment. The American Civil Liberties Union argues that allowing law enforcement agencies to use such equipment could have unwanted consequences if it leads to the development of a ‘playstation mentality’ among members of the police force. In effect, by operating at distance, police may lose any sense of empathy and start initiating unnecessarily intense and aggressive attacks on civilians. Thorough training and oversight would be required to prevent such difficulties, nonetheless, with these less lethal weapons, law enforcement personnel could potentially use drones without adding significant, deadly risks associated with the concerns noted above.
- The Switchblade Drone: Despite the positive uses, there are certain more frightening developments that we’re keeping our eyes on. The switchblade drone, for instance, is designed to crash into a target and detonate on impact, effectively acting as a remote controlled flying bomb. In April 2015 the Marines successfully tested the drone, accurately releasing it and steering it towards the target. This test proved that the drone could be launched from an aircraft and could be controlled remotely. Though effective, what if it were to be used around civilians?
Is it possible that police departments the world over will be using these UAVs in one way or another in the near future? I believe it is inevitable. Certainly the expansion of the drone industry in response is a net benefit, but whether society at large will benefit from this technology is the real issue here. It seems to me that the use of weaponized drones by law enforcement authorities has the potential to create problems if proper precautions are not taken. However, the overall benefits could be substantial if used with caution and good sense.
What do you think? Is it possible to put enough safeguards in place? Do you think civilians will ultimately benefit from these technologies? Or will it only make matters worse?
Image via: Draganfly