Opinion / Politics

Drone Technology Calls Privacy Into Question

New technologies are being sought in the fields of science and medicine, namely now in the fight against the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. One such experimental device is a “pandemic drone.” This innovative technology is already in use to locate submerged objects and victims in response to search-and-rescue cases. Regarding the coronavirus, flyby medical information is collected by aerial drones that can be used to pinpoint symptomatic and active cases of the disease. Information can be collected and utilized to monitor community gatherings for the promotion of public safety.

This newer drone technology works by using sensors and computer vision systems to monitor the heart rates, respirations, and temperatures of people. Individuals must be roughly within 190 feet of the device for the disease to be detected. Data collected aims to show whether people who are in proximity of the flying machine have a fever or a cough. The drones, operated remotely by humans, are designed to gather, and return information that can be interpreted in order to control mass gatherings during the pandemic.

It has been reported by American media network CNET, that the Chinese government employs the use of drones with thermal sensors to find sick people wandering in public spaces. They are scanning individuals to enforce power and promote their authoritarian ways. Per the state-controlled Global Times News, police in Taizhou, a city of over 6-million individuals, has been using drones with loudspeakers to break up group gatherings. They are literally watching and publicly shaming citizens who are not following government regulations.

Recently, the aerospace firm Draganfly conducted the first U.S. test flights of its drones in Westport, Connecticut. According to the police department, they anticipate the use of drones throughout the summer months to help reinforce social distancing measures and to control the spread of the coronavirus. Currently, it is emphasized that the drone technology does not utilize facial recognition, nor is it designed to follow or surveille individuals. Rather, the biometric machine is simply being employed to gauge overall population health at this point.

Using drones to monitor people where folks congregate in masses, such as at airports or on cruise ships, is not without controversy. Those who voice their opposition to this practice believe this form of government surveillance will fundamentally lead to an invasion of privacy. However, most experts agree that the technology is not the problem. Rather, the problem lies in how the technology is applied. One point is clear, as we expand the use of drones, even for such mundane tasks as home deliveries, American citizens must be protected by laws that deter the “big brother” mentality.

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