BreakThru News, Ep. 2: The Normalization of Drones


By Tanya Silverman

Drones, which are often called “unmanned aerial systems” or UAVs, were traditionally developed and used for military purposes. American forces often implement drone strikes for anti-terrorist campaigns, which is an incredibly controversial practice covered extensively in today’s media.

Domestically, American authorities like the police, FBI, and Drug Enforcement Administration have begun using drones for investigation. Executing highly advanced domestic surveillance via drones is also controversial, as opponents view it as invasive to individual privacy.

But because drones are becoming cheaper and more accessible, these flying devices are being adapted to–and considered for–many other purposes beyond the state. Around the world, individuals launch these aerial machines to document disaster damage in the Philippines, chase celebrities in Europe, survey excavation sites in Peru, or monitor crops and livestock in rural Oklahoma.

Though the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) currently bans the use of commercial drones until they cultivate a set of regulations in 2015, numerous private-sector prospects have already come about. Recently, CEO Jeff Bezos announced that his company plans to construct a speedy drone-delivery service by that year, while chain restaurants Yo! Sushi and Domino’s have been experimenting with how to deliver food orders using flying machines.

However, people have become apprehensive about the idea of drones flying everywhere, raising concerns of whether they will crash into people, conflict with airports, or invasively document people’s daily lives.

Also, considering the wide diversity of existing and potential drone usage, some have debated on whether deadly military UAVs and miniature ones that resemble model airplanes should fall under the same title.

On this edition of BreakThru News, Brendan Schulman, an attorney at Kramer Levin, discusses how the drone differentiation semantic is lost, and despite what the machines are titled, UAVs themselves can be used for lots of positive purposes beyond military operations. He also highlights how the FAA lags way behind the technological course of development for drones.

Also joining BTN is Nabiha Syed, the Co-Founder of Drone University, who analyzes some common misconceptions the public holds about drones. She brings up how members of society have tendencies to fear any new technology, and how certain risks people fear from drones’ presence — like the ubiquity of spying cameras and threats to personal privacy — have already surfaced with the mass presence of cell phones. Syed also delves into how the drone journalist community is developing a body of ethical guidelines. She discusses her travels in Pakistan and how the military drone strikes play into everyday life there.

Video Credits:
Host, Writer – Charlotte Thun-Hohenstein

Video Editor – Meredith Schneider
Script Supervisor – Matthew DeMello
Research – Tanya Silverman
Social Media – Molly Freeman