The FAA recently acknowledged that unmanned aircraft, sometimes called drones, are evolving from military assets into potential tools for all manner of civilian and domestic law enforcement uses. In aviation parlance they're now called unmanned aircraft systems or "UASs" and vary widely in size, shape, function and how they are controlled. UASs can have a wingspan as big as a Boeing 737 or just a few feet, smaller than a radio controlled model airplane. But are they safe? And what do they say about issues of privacy?
The military uses of UASs has been well documented and criticized in our war efforts abroad. But more and more organizations and agencies are asking for permission to employ unmanned aircraft in US skies. Tornado chasers want to use them to study extreme weather, the Coast Guard wants to use drones that can stay airborne far longer than a helicopter, for search and rescue. Border agencies and local law police departments are requesting permission to use UAVs in tracking, chasing and catching smugglers, criminals and speeders.
As an activist with Code Pink’s No Drones Movement, Xan Joi has done extensive research on drones both here and abroad, and considers them both unsafe and unethical.
Lindsay Voss disagrees. A research analyst with the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), she says that the benefits of domestic drones outweigh the drawbacks. We've also been asking our guests to recommend books for your reading lists this summer. Lindsay recommends P.W. Singer's "Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century" for those who want to learn more about drones.