Drone, also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) has granted the world with being prominence in its capabilities to deliver high technology surveillance while having effectiveness in mobility. All around the world, organizations, companies and governments are using drones for various purposes such as delivery, aerial photography and surveillance. Law enforcement bodies took the initiative of using drones in handling crimes while not putting themselves in jeopardies. However, would drones be the best medium for crime-fighting arsenals?
Drone: Your Associate or Enemy?
The US Customs and Boarder Protection agency sees drone as a potential unmanned aerial system for monitoring their borders against human traffickers. The drones equipped with advanced sensors, infrared cameras and facial-recognition capabilities allow it to identify and cross-reference any individual with applicable law enforcement database. This identification scheme would be extremely valuable for Border Patrol agents to use drones in arresting human traffickers that they encounter, whether they have a previous criminal record or not. The agency soliciting proposals have already sparked interest from companies in which whoever manage to submit a prototype that is in line with the agency’s needs will receive $200,000 to help in further development and production.
Furthermore, the use of drones for regular inspection and monitoring at high places will reduce the risks of work accidents as per airborne surveys. In 2007, National Statistic recorded 40 cases for fatal injuries and 43,000 cases for non-fatal injuries from falling from a height. This resulted in losses of hundreds of million dollars a year for medical costs and costs for absence at work. Utilizing drones also alleviated the need of trained personnel to operate expensive manned helicopters and help in reducing costs as fewer workforce and equipment are involved.
Possibilities of users abusing the drone functionality are also a concern as civilians may get harmed. In the United Kingdom, these issues are dealt under the Civil Aviation Act 1982 and the Air Navigation Order 2009 which provides the set of rules in operating a drone. To protect the privacy of the public, The United states has enforced the code of conduct which is consistent with the 4th Amendment of the US Constitution. It states that a warrant is needed by the law enforcement body to carry out an inspection where privacy violation might appear and that the collected information must be specific and targeted. It is the responsibility of the users to have awareness in compliantly operating the drones, and not to misuse it by negatively impacting the environment and society. Sophisticated technology emerges through time to help us in everyday life but can go wrong under the hands of irresponsible individuals.
How far we have come?
The worst practical function of a drone is when the military decided to use it as leverage in warfare. In this situation, pilots have the privilege to control the drone remotely from a cubicle and avoid being physically present on the battlefield. As stated by PW singer, “there is always a connection between a world of war and a world of entertainment”. He continued his statement by expressing, “I call this phenomenon ‘militament’ where military world is now pulling tools from the world of entertainment to do their jobs”. Some cultures consider this act as cold hearted and coward. While the drone movement can be controlled precisely, the aftermath of destruction done by it is still unpredictable as it can leave behind collateral damages, such as the deaths of many civilians, including children. According to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
801 civilians were killed in Pakistan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia for a period of seven years starting from January 2009. Anna Schwenkenbecher stated that the incidental harm can only be morally permissible when the violent agents comply a very high standard of care and that they must accept pains to avoid such harm even at higher cost to him- or herself. In this case, clearly the drone warfare does not comply with this standard of care thus violate the military ethics.
The United States Principal Government sees drone technology as a secure and efficient weapon. However, what if there is a risk that bandits may exploit this technology? They would see this as an opportunity to use it as a weapon against their victims. With the evolution of present-day hacking, it is easier for them to take over and abuse protected systems thus gaining power. In another context, drone delivery service is also turning into a network of criminal activities as uncivilized people would use this as an advantage for them to perform payload theft on the parcels that are being delivered.
According to Bruce Snell, which is the director of Intel Cyber-Security and Privacy, hijacking becomes much easier with the availability of hacking toolkits like the pre-packaged software and code. Another popular method of drone hijacking is through GPS spoofing attack where the attackers would send fake geographic coordinates to the drone’s control system. This will then deceive the information on the board system of the drone to go to the attackers’ intended locations. Other than that, the attackers are also capable to intercept, modify, delay and block the actual information of the drone for their inhuman intentions. Hijacking is also made easy with the leak of encrypted GPS signal. Professor Noel Sharkey which is the co-founder of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control said that “it’s easy to spoof an unencrypted drone. Anybody technically skilled could do this – it would cost them some £700 for the equipment and that’s it.”
In conclusion, a lot of unpleasant things could be done with the development of this drone technology that would give a harmful impact to the civilians. As a solution to mitigate those dangerous criminal activities, the governments and other responsible bodies should use their influences in taking a meticulous attention on this matter to prevent such things from happening that could potentially lead to international conflicts or even worst, wars.