Social Issues

    Surrounding the drone debate is a series of sensitive and controversial social issues.  The distinction between protecting and ensuring the safety of society while still maintaining and upholding civilians' privacy and civil rights is rather difficult to make.  When does too much monitoring and surveillance become excessive? Are there situations in which social benefits of drone use largely outweigh the costs?

    How are drones capable of achieving and essential to civilian safety?

    In reality, drones are an extension of the United States' public servicemen and federal forces focused on protecting civilians.  They are an addition to the police department, fire safety force, paramedics, and military.  By incorporating drones into these areas, it makes the jobs of each of these men and women easier and more efficient. According to the NY Times Article on "The Rise of Drones," they are capable of searching for and locating lost children, assisting rescuers during natural disasters, and locating bombs.  With the variety of drones disposable today, a high speed helicopter could be useful in chasing down and catching a criminal on the loose while another drone may be used in locating a terrorist in hiding by technologically picking up on his/her body temperature. 
(use by officer)                                                   (drones in the police force)

    More simply, drones can be used at traffic lights or areas with frequent speeding cases or accidents where they can capture a picture of a person's license plate and/or car that isn't obeying driving rules.  This simple use can potentially save many lives, prevent many accidents, and easily track down criminals or other dangers to society.  Beyond these protections, securities, and increased vigilance that can be provided to civilians through drone use, are countless others. 

    How do drones play into national security?

    Drones have the potential to be key players in national security, as mentioned above with their ability to protect citizens and ensure their safety.  These safety features of drones can be used for domestic protection and policing on the international level as well.  Drones can help secure national security through their advanced technological powers. They can be engineered to spot and terminate bombs aimed at a specific country, locate a variety of other chemical weapons capable of causing mass destruction, and even be useful in enforcing border control.  Thus, drones are capable of performing advanced tasks that are impossible and unattainable by other means. 

(unmanned drone used in border control)

    Today, drones have been used internationally, in many cases, carrying out airstrikes against suspected terrorists.  While this has been a very controversial topic for policy makers,  it has both benefits and shortcomings.  The ability to launch airstrikes against foreign targets may be comforting because it reaffirms the power of the United States military forces and shows that with drones, a potential terrorist, can be whipped out.    However,  concerns of airstrikes are very warranted because they raise the worry about retaliation by other powers, wrongful targeting (being incorrect about a suspect), and also causing many civilian casualties.  To find out more about casualties caused from drone use, visit this link.

 (uproar over civilian casualties)

    Another argument that has been raised is that several other countries are now incorporating drones into their own military forces.  While the United States and Israel currently lead the way in the most powerful and advanced drone force, other countries such as Lebanon, Iran, India, and Pakistan are incorporating and using drones today.  Without drones, it can be argued that the United States would be at a detriment militarily and behind in technological means of defense. 

(cartoon from the Los Angeles Times)

    We really must ask ourselves: is it in the United States' best interest to institute drone use abroad? When would it be justifiable to use drones internationally? This requires deep consideration of international law and permissibility which culminates in a very difficult political decision.

    Do drones violate civilian privacy?

     As discussed above, drones can aim to reduce accidents by being present at stop-lights or high-speed areas and recording license plates and photographing cars.  While this seems like an efficient way of capturing law-breakers because police officers are free to focus on other pressing tasks, many citizens feel this violates their privacy.  Many people are concerned with ubiquitous drones and feeling like someone is always watching their every move.  This move to constant surveillance is not only foreign, but frightening and scary.
              (hypothetic photo of drones in the sky)         (picture from the web showing civilian fear of drones)

    On the barren back roads of rural Kentucky, are drones really necessary to report and fine someone driving 40 mph instead of 35?  Many citizens are against the use of drones because once they start to monitor one thing, who is to say they won't adapt to watch our every move?

    What sort of rights do we have against drones? for drones?

    Many drone opponents cite the 4th amendment in their defense.  The fourth amendment mandates "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." Therefore, search and seizure is not permissible without "probable cause" or, in other words, grounds for investigation.  Using this amendment, many opponents defend their disapproval of drones, because they say the use of drones to monitor daily activities, like drones at traffic lights, is inconsistent with our legislation.  These opponents argue and believe that excessive drone use to monitor regular civilians without "probable cause" is a violation of freedoms and civil rights.  

    However, advocates argue for quite the opposite.  They see it as a human right to protection against potential dangers or other citizens.  In their view, this vigilance is a duty of the government to ensure that one person is not infringing on the freedoms of another person.  For example, a repeatedly offending speeder is hindering other law abiding citizens' right to a safe highway.  Therefore, if the government is able to better regulate roads and prevent accidents, it should undertake measures in order to do so. 

    Another concern of opponents is domestic civilian casualties due to crashes.  If there are so many accidents already on the ground, why is there no concern about crashes in the sky?  Perhaps this is an additional risk that isn't worth taking.  On the other hand, plane crashes are extremely more infrequent than car, truck, motorcycle crashes due to fewer vehicles being in the sky, less traffic, and a fewer inhibited or distracted drivers (cell phones, drugs, etc.).  Additionally, government regulation and licensing by the FAA will reduce potential accidents.  For that reason, advocates do not see accidents as a valid concern. 

    What other kind of social benefits come from drone use?

    As we have seen, many societal precautions and safeguards can come from drone use.  Furthermore, their use can allow increased efficiency for society; for example, they will be able to cooperate and aid emergency personnel and assume tasks for servicemen, like policemen, allowing them to focus on other pressing issues.  Beyond these advantages, there are a variety of additional social benefits that can be understood on a more personal level.  Specifically, several other groups and occupational organizations have been interested in drones to aid them in their careers and everyday lives. 
    Power companies aim to use drones to monitor transmission lines, while farmers want them to count livestock and help with crop inspections.  Film companies think that drones will be extremely helpful in filming movies and taking footage while journalists are fascinated with the idea of having drones gather news in violent, dangerous areas. 

    Not only can drones be implemented to protect and monitor society, but they can also be extremely appropriate and applicable to the daily lives and careers of Americans. Drones have unprecedented potential to result in economic advantages that will even benefit small scale businesses and companies like farmers and journalists.  Moreover, the improvement and advancement in farming and reporting will only benefit the US population as a whole!

    So, do the social benefits outweigh the costs?

The answer to this is for you to decide. To read about our opinion, visit Our Argument.