I’m not immoral for helping develop the unmanned aircraft technology and DON’T CALL THEM DRONES!



Today, I participated in a lunch time discussion after our Skeptical 101 Special Interest Group which is a FreeThought Arizona program. The program went well enough but the lunch time discussion didn’t.

The discussion started about the proposed use of “drones” to deliver packages. It started with a concern that Amazon’s plan to use “drones” was going to cost people jobs. First, I told him that the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle industry opposes calling the aircraft “drones.” It’s an old concern but drones were made to be targets. Also, male honey bees are called drones. They cannot sting, and they make no honey and are often considered lazy critters. Most UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) are not targets. They are sophisticated, capable systems that are designed around a very specific mission. To be fair, it’s a losing battle to convince people not to use the “D” word when describing UAVs. “Drone” is a fun word and sounds cool. However, that’s not where the discussion ended. It is unlikely that we’ll be receiving UAV deliveries anytime soon. Back in February of 2007 the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) severely curtailed any commercial use of UAVs. Today, there are only a few licensed operator companies and they are primarily associated with the military. The latest prediction for UAV integration into the FAA airspace won’t occur until 2015. People are struggling with the current FAA restrictions as seen in the movie Civilian Drones Search and Rescue. Ultimately, the discussion turned to how UAVs are evil and that I was immoral for my work in developing the technology.

Obviously, being called immoral for my work on Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems was not well received but perhaps it comes from ignorance of UAVs and their missions. Aside from Amazon’s proposal the only coverage of UAVs in the news has been about air strikes in Pakistan and collateral damage. Therefore, it might be useful to discuss some of the other missions of UAV systems.