To drone or not to drone

I have twinned reading on drones, the invasion of privacy and the commercial, non-military world.  First consider Brianna Ehley’s piece in the Fiscal Times, What’s Grounding the Commercial Drone Industry.  Ehley writes about the potential markets for civilian drone use in the U.S.  While a properly impressive large dollar figure has not yet been associated with the market size, suffice it to say that Ehley correctly recognizes the potential space of drone applications as vast, with thousands of drones performing aerial fertilization, pesticide-spraying, delivery and numerous other tasks.  In the future of drones, 2015 figures as an important date we all need to remember, as this is when the FAA must, by law, start to have sufficient regulation in place for this new form of Robot Smog to take off. So, breathe easy for one year? The second reading is by Scott Bomboy: Forget About Drones in Constitution Daily. Bomboy argues that commercial robots- lethal robots for nonmilitary use- are coming, and cites the oft-sited Samsung security guard robot that can be armed with a machine gun and grenade launcher.  The connection between the two articles is instructive because it’s a recognition of the legal speed bumps facing both types of deployment: Bomboy notes that the concept of accountability is ill-defined for a system as autonomous as a gun-wielding security robot, making judgements about responsibility quite difficult; Ehley notes that the insurance industry has not constructed the financial models to offer insurance policies that will be required before civilian drone use can take off (sorry for that).  I would add that accountability and insurance will be even further muddied by the fact that many of these robots will be mixed-initiative, with partial human operator control and part-time autonomous operation.  When bad things happen during transitional periods, prepare for epic battles over accountability and responsibility. 

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