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Much ado about nothing with civilian drones

By Matthew Patton

The Guardsman

So there are people out there that have reservations about drones being available in the civilian sector. There’s this prevailing fear/notion that surveillance technology like that is something that should be only in the hands of our government, due to the very real risks of invasion of privacy and such.

But really…this is all much ado about nothing.

What this boils down to is what the drone has come to represent. An unmanned flying vehicle that has become synonymous with airstrikes in the Middle East. The next step in military technology and warfare, one that drastically reduces risk to our troops while simultaneously allowing us to seek and destroy at the push of a button. That is what has shaped and formed our gut reaction response to the word “drone.”

We’re not getting those drones. The greatest similarity between the drones you and I can purchase off of the internet and the ones we’ve come to know from the military is: they can fly. That’s really where it begins and ends in any meaningful way.

The drones that we have come to know (and fear, in some cases) are not the ones being sold in the mainstream. The technology behind the military drones is leagues ahead of what’s available for civilian use. The military-style drones are designed for various types of weather and mission-specific functions, whether it be reconnaissance or payload delivery (aka blowing stuff up). The cost of one MQ-9 Reaper drone, a model that is dominantly use by the U.S. Air Force, is nearly $17 million (as of the year 2013).

Think about that for one second. $17 million for one Reaper drone. And by all accounts, that’s now considered an old model. Contrast that to the cost of one Storm RC X5 550 UAV Drone Quadcopter – $399.95, which is available for purchase right now. The cost of the military’s drones compared to what we’re getting right now should let you know right off the bat: what we have access to is not even comparable to what the military has.

And to be clear: there will always be inherent risks whenever military tech is watered down and modified for civilian use. But there were palpable fears in the public when the global positioning system (GPS) was introduced into modern day life. We can now link up with various satellite feeds to pinpoint our exact location or to map out a trail to wherever we’re going.

That used to be the province of special operations field commanders and U.S. Navy warships. Imagine what life would be like if the initial fear of anyone being able to find everyone was substantiated enough to block something like this from becoming as commonplace as it is today.

There’s always going to be varying levels of trepidation whenever military tech is brought down for civilian use. But drones are already here, and I haven’t had to knock one out of the sky yet. Give it time, people. This is really a whole lot of nothing.


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