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Here comes the drone backlash

Mike Elgan | Aug. 25, 2015
Soon it will be politically incorrect to express enthusiasm for drones or fly them in public. Too bad. Drones are cool.

The answer to technology that bothers or threatens people is almost always better technology.

Here's why we all need to resist the coming backlash against drones:

1. Drones are actually pretty safe

The majority of consumer drones are pretty harmless. They're light. Their rotors don't cut when they come in contact with human flesh. Flying a drone is infinitely safer than driving, crossing a busy street, riding bicycles, using gardening tools, using kitchen knives, taking prescription drugs, eating junk food, experiencing stress and any number of things we all accept as everyday realities.

2. Drones can be designed to be much safer and better

If we were to compare the state of drone development to the history of, say, mobile phones, drones are currently in their Motorola DynaTAC stage.

Over the next year, five years and 10 years, drones will become better in every way -- safer, more automated, quieter and will gain capabilities we can't even imagine today.

3. Drones can be programmed to avoid anything

The beauty of drones -- compared with, say, model aircraft, kites, ultralights, hot air balloons, sport pilot airplanes and all the other things flying around (including birds) is that drones can be easily programmed to never fly near airports, populated areas or the White House.

Multiple projects now in the works from NASA, Google, Amazon and others will result in an automated drone air traffic control system that will determine where drones can fly and where they cannot. Unlike the airplane air traffic control system, the drone version will be automated and keep drones in check without human intervention.

4. Drones will save far more lives than they put at risk

Drones can be instantly deployed in disasters to find survivors and deliver emergency supplies. They can save people from drowning in waters too dangerous for a lifeguard. They can serve as robot paramedics, give firefighters life-saving intel on how and where a forest fire is progressing, and prevent avalanches. Random quadcopter enthusiasts can even spot sharks that surfers can't see.

Many of these life-saving technologies are funded or subsidized by the consumer drone craze.

5. Drones are awesome

While the cringing fearmongers freak everybody out about threats to life and limb, it's a great idea once in a while to think about what life is really all about.

Drones represent an exhilarating freedom of expression and the potential of low-cost and extraordinary consumer technology. Drone photography and videography bring stunning beauty into our lives, and show us a new vantage point from which to love the world. (Here's the video my son recorded during his wedding dinner, for example.)

Surely all that's got to be worth something.

Still, the backlash is coming. And it's too bad, too, because drones are awesome.

 

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