Is it possible to have a calm and intelligent conversation about the use of drones domestically? It will be difficult because some of the most ardent and influential critics including Charles Krauthhammer and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) have come out against drone usage in the U.S.
But, a sensible and dispassionate assessment of the pros and cons could lead to a new and cost-efficient way to ensure our safety against criminals and terrorists.
The following are some of the most popular arguments against the domestic use of drone technology and responses to them:
1) Argument: Drones are weapons of mass destruction. They are being used in the Middle East to assassinate alleged terrorists.
Response: Yes, drones are used offensively in military situations, and they are armed with Hellfire missiles, which can target the enemy from long distances and annihilate them. However, domestic use is proposed to be for patrolling our streets, borders, high crime areas and to assist in the apprehension of criminals.
2) Argument: Drones are deadly weapons that should only be used in war zones.
Response: Drones have become a weapon of choice in combat situations as they reduce American casualties. However, they have a multitude of applications for law enforcement and non-combative activities. The drone industry is growing rapidly and now is a $6 billion industry; it is expected to double in the next 10 years. Domestic drones should not be allowed to carry weapons when deployed in the U.S.
3) Argument: The government will be able to intrude into our daily lives and spy on us.
Response: As with wiretaps and such, the use of drones for specific missions needs to be carefully regulated and some applications should be approved by the courts. However, the daily patrolling of our streets, an activity that occurs every day by the police, is an important aspect of crime fighting. The latter could be greatly enhanced with drone support and would need no court supervision.
4) Argument: Drone usage will violate the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable search and seizures.
Response: If the use of drones is covered by carefully crafted rules and oversight, nobody’s civil liberties will be violated. The principal objectives of drone applications are to detect crimes that are in progress and apprehension of criminals using an “eye in the sky.”
5) Argument: Drone controllers will observe women sunbathing on rooftops and look into our bedroom windows.
Response: This objection is not worthy of a response.
Drone technology is inexpensive, as compared to using additional cops and/or vehicles on the ground to patrol our cities. From high above, violent acts can be prevented. Drones can be used to monitor the acts of known criminals in conjunction with ground surveillance and wiretaps with appropriate court oversight.
Drones can also be used to monitor traffic patterns, violations of environmental protection rules, building code violations, improper building activities, safety issues, etc.
I am very concerned with further intrusion into my personal life and certainly would object to drones peaking into my bedroom. However, these absurd and paranoid concerns of those against drone usage in the U.S. should not be allowed to overwhelm the societal benefits that can be accrued from this technology. Finally, drones could supplement our police who patrol our cities, cameras that are stationed in populous areas and helicopters that are frequently and sometimes dangerously deployed to fight crimes.
There is very little downside affiliated with the use of drones and so much upside.