Legislation around drone use is of paramount importance for their hardware and software developers, as well as businesses hoping to make use of them for deliveries, security surveillance and other purposes. Laws governing their use not determine the scope of their use, and can even shape public perception of these compact flying machines.
What will the public think now that drones in the U.S. are now legally permitted to fly equipped with non-lethal weapons aboard? The change comes courtesy of a recently amended bill in North Dakota.
The law’s author, Representative Rick Becker, originally wanted to require police to secure a warrant for drone surveillance. But then local law enforcement managed to sneak in the right to equip drones with tasers or rubber bullets by amending the original prohibition against lethal and non-lethal force to just limiting lethal weapons.
Weaponizing Drones: This Is No Game
When I contacted Becker, he showed concern over the revised bill. He’s worried, in particular, that it will have dramatic unintended consequences.
“I think it’s important to maintain the humanity in making decisions to deploy weapons against another individual,” he told me. “We can’t depersonalize it and make it like a video game.”
It’s easy to see where the concern comes from. Drones tend to be navigated by handheld units that often mimic game controllers. With weapons on board, the whole premise also puts the attacker further removed from the target, as well as the injury he or she will inflict.
Becker says he “has no knowledge” that police are equipping drones with tasers to hunt down criminals, and he trusts that local law enforcement knew what it was doing when it amended the law. But he suspects it could be an issue in the near future. “Clearly it was important to them to add that provision,” he said.
Drones have faced varying regulations around the country. Back in 2013, Virginia passed a temporary moratorium on state use of drones, so officials could probably assess the safety and ethics before releasing them into the wild.
Click here to read more.