Don’t shoot drones: My top 10 predictions for the future of drones in the U.S.

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The U.S.’ Federal Aviation Administration–the organization in charge of American airspace– has warned people that firing at drones endangers the public and property, and could lead to prosecution.

What promoted this?

An ordinance under consideration at the tiny farming community of Deer Trail in Colorado. The proposed legislation would encourage hunters to attack drones by granting them $25 permits. The town would also award $100 to anyone who presents the wreckage of a downed drone.

Although this story seems far-fetched, Deer Trail resident Phillip Steel, author of the proposal, said that he has 28 signatures (10% of the population) on a petition – enough to trigger a formal meeting at next month’s meeting of town officials under Colorado law.

The FAA responded that: a drone “hit by gunfire could crash, causing damage to persons or property on the ground, or it could collide with other objects in the air,” the statement said. “Shooting at an unmanned aircraft could result in criminal or civil liability, just as would firing at a manned airplane”.

The ordinance is highly symbolic of course; a protest against what many see as an encroaching surveillance society. As Steel puts it: “I don’t want to live in a surveillance society. I don’t feel like being in a virtual prison.”

2015 will be a big year for the FAA, as it marks the date in which America’s skies are officially opened to widespread unmanned aircraft. Police, farmers, journalists, border patrol, and even the military will be able to fly without applying for an individual FAA license. Already, cities and states across the nation are introducing ad hoc legislation in response, which would limit the use of drones for surveillance.

What is unmistakable is that technology possesses an inherent and irreversible “push”. Once it is made, it cannot be unmade. So whether its citizens taking up arms, or legislators limiting unwarranted surveillance, the drone will no doubt rewire the fabric of society in the U.S. and beyond.

Here is my “top 10” predictions for the “near future” and the “far future” of our unmanned world:

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1. Drones will be used for widespread search-and-rescue missions, forest fires, and police manhunts in the next couple of years.

2. As a matter of procedure, drones will be dispatched to all emergency 911 calls alongside regular police, fire, and ambulance personnel. This will be automated, and driven by autonomous drones that can fly, act, and respond independently with advanced software algorithms.

3. The U.S.-Mexico borderlands will lead the integration of drones, Border Patrol personnel, and electronic forms of surveillance. This zone will gradually grow inwards and become a model for domestic policing.

4. Facial recognition will allow drones to target and track “suspicious” individuals and groups. This will also occur in banal places like shopping malls, where shoplifters are identified and followed by private security contractors.

5. Police will use small “nano drones” that cooperate together to infiltrate a building or other domestic “battlespace” and provide real-time atmospheric intelligence to a command center. Multiple cameras will act together to construct 3-dimensional surveillance.

6. Journalists will use drones in the pursuit of ever more invasive forms of stories, using drones that are fitted with thermal imaging. In response, a raft of new privacy laws will be proposed.

7. UPS, DHL and other carriers will begin using large drones in trans-Atlantic flights, as a “cost reduction” measure. Additionally (-my favorite) pizza delivery companies will employ drones rather that drivers. Dominos will advertize a “5 minute drop-off or your pizza’s on us”!

8. Police drones will be fitted with forms of “non-leathal” weaponry and deployed to civilian protests. They will also be fitted with speakers to bark instructions and hand out instant citations for violations of the law.

9. “Criminals” will use drones to ferry narcotics across national borders, in defiance of the billions of dollars poured into the construction of a “virtual fence”. “Terrorists” will use drones to strike high-value-targets, politicians, and highly populated urban areas.

10. Government buildings will be retro-fitted with anti-drone weaponry, radar, and micro-drones that are able to intercept hostile drones. The White House will be the first building to be fitted with this technology, closely followed by Number 10 Downing Street.

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