About 325 drones have been licensed to fly in U.S. airspace and thousands more could be coming by 2015. The drones help in police work, scientific research and border patrol, but opponents worry about safety and privacy issues. We asked members of the Times-Union/Jacksonville.com Email Interactive Group what their opinions are on using domestic drones. Here is a representative sampling of their responses:
Drones have been a wonderful help to our troops in a wartime situation, but I'm not so sure I want them flying over our country on surveillance missions. The only reason would be in law enforcement, but we have police helicopters to do that. Since hearing about the IRS snooping into the taxes of specifically targeted taxpayers, it seems this present administration wishes more and more power over our lives. This is the way socialism works, take away a little here and a little there till we finally wake up one day and find our form of government has been completely changed.
Helen Louise Jesacher, Jacksonville
My opinion of drones is if they help us keep fanatics from trying to destroy us, then do use them ... we went from horses to tanks, and some people thought it was inhumane at the time, but Americans cannot be sentimental about survival if it's us or them.a
Georgeanna Teehan, Elkton
Drones have no place as a casual use in our country. Their use violates our constitutional right to privacy on many levels and must be stopped. The risks of potential for violation of basic rights far outweigh any benefits.a
George F. Vaughn Jr., Neptune Beach
Aside from the moral, ethical and legal issues, the nature of the drones' design - using remote command sequences and electronic linkages to manage them - offers a fine opportunity for making mischief or turning them into weapons against whomever deploys them. A moderately skilled eighth-grader could intercept the command traffic between ground control and the drones, decode them and send a new set of commands. The flight path could be altered, (maybe to follow police cars around and see what they're doing), or to buzz neighborhoods for amusement, or to cause property damage by crashing them into buildings. More likely is that with thousands deployed, they will collide with one another from time to time and be more trouble than they are worth until a reasonable way to use the technology is developed.
Douglas Underhill, Southside
Once again, is this a case of Big Brother keeping an eye on us? I can appreciate the aspects of police help, etc., but here we are again taking advantage of spying on people whether warranted or not. Would drones have stopped the Sandy Hook or Boston Marathon tragedies? I doubt it, but it seems the government wants to make sure it is keeping an eye on everyone.
Phil Skewes, Arlington
I have a difficult time understanding the protests to the use of drones by government agencies on the basis of privacy. What is the difference between a person sitting in an aircraft looking at a monitor that is showing what a high-resolution camera mounted on the aircraft sees, and that same person looking at that same monitor sitting in a building while the aircraft flies around unmanned but directed by a "pilot" also in the building? It also is much more economically efficient to use the drone in place of the manned aircraft, saving taxpayer money. A serious issue, though, is safety. As a retired professional pilot, I know that part of the system that keeps aircraft from collisions is a person in the cockpit looking out the window - we call it "see and avoid." Some careful thought needs to go into a system that will ensure the same level of safety when there are no eyes in the aircraft to see potential hazards. …