Drones have been much in the news lately; from Predators with Hellfire missiles attacking terrorist strongholds to Amazon delivering the latest ‘must-have’ to your doorstep. Everyone from the Federal government to local law-enforcement wants drones in the air keeping an eye on our nation. Put away the foil-hat and paranoid conspiracy theories, the next time your neighborhood ‘eccentric’ tells you that he is being watched he might well be right.
But Big Brother or big government may not be the culprit. It might be someone’s Little Brother. Or sister. Because the drones aren’t just coming, they are here. Wonder what that weird neighbor of yours is up to? Or what the fire department is doing at that house down the street? Or, more creepily, does your neighbor’s teenage daughter really sun-bathe topless? The answers are literally at your fingertips, as near as the internet and your smart phone. Or your nearest Radio Shack, who for a modest few hundred dollars will provide you with a WiFi capable drone with high-resolution video that you can control with your iPhone.
If your budget stretches a little further TAvision.ca will provide you with a drone with up to a 1.2 kilogram payload. That’s large enough for a very sophisticated high-resolution camera. Or a less sophisticated camera and a gun. If the idea of random strangers watching you isn’t scary enough check out this video from YouTube's FPS Russia. Of course armed drones are already technically illegal in many areas due to catch-all regulations against ‘other dangerous weapons.’
Before you get too alarmed a little perspective is in order. Radio-controlled planes, even ones with cameras or large enough to mount lethal weapons, have been around for decades and there has not been a rash of remote-control killings. While drones are getting less expensive, more capable, higher-profile and easier to use this is simply an expansion of capabilities that have already existed for some time. As for personal privacy countermeasures as simple as drawing the curtains are as effective against drones as they are against Peeping Toms and Paparazzi.
Law-makers are always behind the technology-curve, but they can and do catch up eventually. You can expect that issues surrounding drones will be no different.