Drones are the future, DC must catch up

With Washington, D.C., banning drones because of negligence, this should not become a trend.

Anant Naik

When most people think of a drone, they have an image of a long, slender, plane-like craft armed with weapons or surveillance gear in the depths of the Middle East or Africa. This is fairly consistent with their portrayal in the media, which often suggests that the ability to control aircrafts remotely is dangerous.

But it’s time for the American people to understand that not all drones operate in war-torn nations. Not all drones even operate in the military. Today, drones are becoming more and more important to our technological growth, and we should embrace that for the progress it shows.

Within the last several months, legislation was passed to effectively enforce the ban on drones in all of Washington, D.C. It’s typical to find no-fly zones around military bases and government buildings, but now, for the first time, a whole district has forbidden drones.

This ban came into effect after a drunken government employee crashed a drone into the yard of the White House. The government immediately sought to close this “loophole” in its security systems by prohibiting drones altogether.

Washington, D.C., isn’t just the nation’s capital, it’s also home to 60,000 small businesses and countless other large companies and firms. I understand the security risks imposed by drones in the vicinity of important government buildings, but blanket bans are not the answer. They just hamper innovation and important technological progress the United States needs. States should not follow in the footsteps of D.C.

First, it’s important to understand that banning drones doesn’t secure the areas the government wants secured.

Drone-operated search-and-rescue missions — which have proven to be successful around the country — will be hurt. Adam Thierer, a senior fellow at George Mason University’s Meracatus Center, argued that the ban on drones is comparable to banning cars just because there’s a possibility that someone could drive their car into the White House.

Drones also have important benefits for agriculture. According to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, a trade group, 80 percent of commercial drone use could occur in agriculture. We can use drones to herd cattle, record pesticide levels, monitor water levels and even apply chemicals to increase crop outputs.

Today, Mexico is using drones to protect endangered wildlife such as the porpoise.

Finally, some companies continue to use drones to film athletic events or movies, while others use drones to view real estate properties.

With researchers at the University of Minnesota backing drone use, we ought to continue to fund important research projects like the ones done by the Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Laboratories within theUniversity’s Department of Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics.

Drones have the capacity to contribute to scientific advancements. If specific regulation can be used to curtail their detriments, then specific legislation could also foster their benefits. In any case, we should minimize blanket regulations, which should not act as a precedent for other states to follow.