Everything identified as a flying object has to abide by certain laws, even unmanned aircrafts, better known as drones. The aviation law, which due to its nature could even be considered international law, focuses its concern on flights, air travel and any legal or business concern which could be related. This would in fact include those controversial aircrafts that have certainly been stirring up the legal community as lawyers, law enforcement and citizens struggle to understand how the law applies to these flying gadgets.
Drones, which are well known today mainly by this name, can also be referred to as unmanned aircrafts or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). In essence, a drone is basically a robot that has the ability to fly. They could be controlled remotely or they could also be navigated with GPS software, which traces the route that they have to follow. Now, initially this sounds like a pretty cool invention, but where the controversy usually creeps in is when we mention that they are usually equipped with cameras that record their fights. In their flights there is usually no consideration of privacy and what is being recorded usually without people’s permission. Nowadays, more and more people are using drones for personal use, and of course it’s no surprise that these people have to be held accountable for safe and responsible flying practices.
On the other hand, we have to consider that they are not only being used for personal uses, but are also being used in a number of fields to support employee’s jobs and oversee or reach places that would otherwise be impossible or quite difficult. Companies like Shell, Amazon, railways, DHL, construction firms, park rangers, airlines, and of course media networks have all gotten on the drone wagon and are using these gadgets to improve working conditions, supervise some activities or maintenance operations, assure safety conditions on worksites, capture poachers, identify illegal activities, or delivery of merchandise.
Uncommon uses for unmanned aircrafts:
1. Hurricane hunting:
By using long-range drones scientists can safely explore the eye of a hurricane to see how they develop. This extremely valuable footage and surveillance they take with the drone can improve forecasts, not to mention that as a result they would also be saving money and lives. What these drones show evidence of are all characteristics that a human would never be able to extract on his/her own, such as: temperature, pressure, humidity, and location. All data necessary to bring a huge advancement to this field.
2. 3D Mapping:
Giving the power to create 3D mapping to small companies and individuals, drones are allowing them to stitch together high quality imaging. Different applications are using this new opportunity to create business opportunities.
3. Protecting wildlife:
Drones are helping the local authorities to protect its lands and species from poachers and hunters. Monitoring wildlife and mapping out lands and back roads are just some of the activities that drones are doing to support management of these natural parks.
By combining technology and agriculture, farmers have been able to implement precision agriculture. Some applications identify pesticides, water or fertilizers generate information that will allow them to identify which resources are needed and even deliver them there.
5. Search and rescue:
Search and rescue missions can be very expensive, time-consuming and often dangerous to the people involved. These drones can cover more ground and have demonstrated that in this particular situation it is necessary to continue exploring technology which will only continue to improve and help lives, or better yet in this case save lives.
Law Enforcement and Governmental Uses:
Drones are also being used by military and governmental agencies, and this alone has brought on a whole other controversial issue. What limits should drones used by authorities have? When is privacy more important than protection, or when does the line become blurry? With the intent to protect and serve there have been more and more cases of drones controlled by authority figures in the hopes to prevent and fight crime, or even to counteract other drones, which are being reckless or irresponsible.
It is argued that drones are perfect for many of the operations that would normally put officers lives at risk or simply wouldn’t be possible without this technology. Tactical operations, criminal pursuit, crowd control and border patrol are just a few examples of what drones are being used for. But the one topic that becomes increasingly concerning is surveillance, again analyzing privacy issues. This brings up many hot topics that have yet to be resolved through clear legislation or rules. The FAA has given authorization to fly drones in domestic air zones, but other than this there are very few or any rules set in place to protect citizen’s privacy or the legal lines that should not be crossed by these UAVs, independent of the operators.
The legal position on drones flown for personal, commercial or law enforcement uses seems to still be in the distant future. Until then I guess everyone has their hands full trying to figure out the best possible ways to interpret the current guidelines and apply them to all drone users.