Disaster Zone

Drones vs. UAV

Choose your language wisely when talking things that fly without pilots.

by Eric Holdeman / April 24, 2013

I've recently discovered that the word "Drones" draws immediate fire from both the left and the right of the political spectrum.  Both sides conjure up images of Predator aircraft firing Hellfire missiles with controllers in some bunkered CIA complex in Virginia.


The left is worried about individual freedoms and the right doesn't want government intrusion into their lives until it is time for them to get some financial benefit from it.  


Which brings me to what is it that we should call these devices that fly around in the sky without a pilot in them?  The other common term used other than drone is Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).  When it comes time for you to advocate for your agency's use of these technological wonders to benefit your community and the disaster resilience of your region I suggest you stay away from the "Drone" word and  it would be much better if the UAV usage was not associated with a law enforcement mission.  


Perhaps the UAV needs to be operated by the Fire Department or a volunteer group and not a police organization.  This gets it away from the spying on your neighbor fears that the law enforcement mission seems to conjure up.


The other thing is develop a list of policies and procedures for when and how the information collected, e.g. video files, will be stored and who will have access to them and when will they be destroyed.


We are past the time when you could just buy the technology and start using it.  Pre-planning is essential if you expect to be successful in the political environment that we are in today.


One last thing--I have found it interesting to note how people are all spun up about drones, but the wearable camera systems that are coming on line, the license plate readers that can be used on patrol cars and other handheld video collection methods are not coming under the same scrutiny.  I guess we should be thankful for that.