Drone: the new superhero?

As long as there is evil, we will need a hero to save us. Superhero’s like Iron man, that combines human knowledge with advanced technology to make the world a better place isn’t fiction anymore: it’s today’s reality.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVS), also known as drones, are aircrafts either controlled by ‘pilots’ from the ground or increasingly, autonomously following a pre-programmed mission. They are mostly used for surveillance purposes or for bombing. The popularity of the drone has to do with the time an unmanned aircraft can stay aloft (the world record is currently held by ‘Zephyr’, for flying 82 hours nonstop), the significant lower costs than military aircrafts and the reduced danger to flight crew.

In the flooded areas of the state Colorado, a drone mapped the damage because of the inability of helicopters and airplanes to safely take off during heavy storms. You would expect people treating the drone as a hero, but instead the drone got removed from the air by the Federal Bureau. The drone is considered illegal in the area, and to prevent arrest the owner of the drones keeps them safely to the ground.In addition to that Colorado got flooded again, only this time with applications for drone-hunting permits. Next month it will be decided if hunting licenses to shoot down drones will be issued. Will Rogers once said: “Being a hero is about the shortest-lived profession on earth”. Apparently he is right. Way to thank your hero!

In my opinion the drone is a superstar, ready to stick around for a while longer. The scientific department of the American ministry of Defense (DARPA) developed the ARGUS-IS-camera, which with its 1,8 gigapixel camera has the highest resolution in the world. Combine this with a Boeing A160 Hummingbird-drone and you can monitor an area with the size of Manhattan at once. This while being up 4.5 kilometer in the air, and still having enough resolution to see people wave. The possibilities with the drone are endless in terms of monitoring and defense.

Maybe people now are not ready yet to let go of a flesh and blood superhero, but one day we will have to believe in technology saving the day. I already do.







One response to “Drone: the new superhero?”

  1. Mariska van Keulen says :

    In this case yes, the drone sounds like a super hero and I do believe it can help to save and protect us. Especially when they are used to map drowned areas, research on volcanoes and climate research in the upper atmosphere.

    But I think there is also the other side of the drone: the new super enemy.
    We (probably) all know that the US is already using drones to locate and attack militants in Pakistan and Jemen. Nowadays the drones are controlled remotely, but there are some new plans. The US Air Force is planning and says that by 2047 a unmanned aircraft (drone) with blazing artificial intelligence systems could fly over a target and determine whether or not to unleash lethal weapons, and that without any human intervention. And there I think we have to be careful by relying too much on drones and using them for this kind of purposes. Some ethical questions must be resolved before using this kind of a drone. For example under what circumstances it should be employed and where the responsibility for making mistakes lies.

    And even when al of these questions are answered, the aircraft’s communications and control links are still vulnerable to unintentional or intentional radio interference. This can lead to accidents and hostile takeovers. And what happens when a drone who can decide whether to unleash lethal weapons or not comes into the wrong hands.

    So I think the drone can be a hero, but also be a new enemy, and before using them we need to think about all the pro’s and cons!





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