Police officers chase a suspect to his home. The suspect runs behind the house, out of sight. The officers open the trunk of their patrol car and pull out what looks like a toy model aircraft with four rotors and a video camera. They launch the aircraft, which allows them to monitor their suspect’s movements through a video feed on an iPad-like tablet and, ultimately, to apprehend him.
In Mesa County, Colo., the sheriff’s department is testing a drone called the Dragonfly X6. Ben Miller, unmanned systems coordinator for the sheriff’s office, says it’s been especially useful in search operations.
“We had a lost subject in a vegetated creek bed and we were given about a mile length of that creek to search,” Miller says. “We completed that search in just a little over an hour with two staff members.”
All those unmanned aircraft have some people a little wary. Privacy advocate Harley Geiger of the Center for Democracy and Technology says drones are basically flying video cameras.
“Drones can easily be equipped with facial recognition cameras, infrared cameras or open Wi-Fi sniffers,” Geiger says. “So when people think about drones they shouldn’t just think that a telephoto lens is the only feature that can raise a privacy issue.”
Nor, says Geiger, is it only law enforcement that could be watching: “The paparazzi, your homeowners’ association, your neighbor, a journalist can all sic drones on you as well.”
You might ask what we got for the trillion we spent in Iraq and Afghanistan? The peace is debatable. But one thing is for sure: drone technology advanced by leaps and bounds (see cool videos here).
A good friend of mine has been inside a number of very successful technology start-ups. He is obsessed with the commercial applications of drones. And he is not alone.
We are not talking about just miniature planes that can assist police in searching remote areas for lost people or follow your kid on the way to school (which exists today) but drones complete with artificial intelligence and facial recognition cameras. A personal drone that can beam your kid’s little league game to your desktop and tell you with your spouse is cheating on you without you even asking it to do so.
Think of Siri on steroids with aerial movement capability.
My buddy got off the plane with his family and on the way to baggage claim his kids were transfixed by a drone flying around the gate area that turned out to be from the Brookstone spent the hall. That drone was the state of the art defense technology less than 5 years ago. It now costs $300.
Civilian police can get current state of the art drones for the price of a police cruiser. That’s affordable to some now. And within a few years they will be available for a fraction of the price.
Are personal drones a good thing?
I’m not sure but they are coming.