April 15, 2013
Google Chief Warns Of Mini Drones In Terrorist Hands
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Drones, or unmanned flying vehicles, have many uses and are being deployed in many different areas around the world. In a recent interview with the Guardian, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt said he´s uncomfortable with how widespread their use has become and urged for stricter regulations. In his subscription-only interview with UK´s The Guardian, Schmidt also said he was worried about terrorists getting their hands on drone technology and attacking other countries.
"I'm not going to pass judgment on whether armies should exist, but I would prefer to not spread and democratize the ability to fight war to every single human being,” said Schmidt in his interview.
Schmidt also drew up a hypothetical scenario about two quarreling neighbors and the potential use of drone technology therein.
"You're having a dispute with your neighbor," said Schmidt.
"How would you feel if your neighbor went over and bought a commercial observation drone that they can launch from their backyard. It just flies over your house all day. How would you feel about it?"
Schmidt isn´t the only one skeptical about the increasing prevalence of drones. One of the most common uses for unmanned vehicles is to gather military intelligence behind enemy lines and even launch strikes against combatants. The British Army has also said that they will be using tiny helicopter drones to surveil checkpoints and clear out buildings.
Some major metropolitan cities have considered using surveillance drones to support their local police departments, but these have often been met with fierce public resistance. A bill signed by President Obama in 2012 allowed police departments to apply to use federally owned drones. Seattle was one of the first to say they planned to use these drones, but public outcry persuaded Mayor Mike McGinn to send the drones back to the Department of Homeland Security.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has also said drones could soon be used in New York City, saying: “I just don´t see how we´re going to stop that.”
The spread of this technology to citizens and private companies has concerned some, specifically Schmidt and Todd Humphreys, a researcher with the University of Texas. Last year Humphreys lead a team which demonstrated how a drone could be hacked and sent crashing to the ground. In Humphreys´ hypothetical scenario, a hacker could take control of a drone and use it as a missile to crash into buildings or even other aircraft.
There is a significant difference between drones used by the State or large corporations and drones used by private citizens. This could also explain the issues Schmidt has with drones getting in the hands of the people. As the head of a company which sells information to advertisers and has spent countless hours building a database of photographs of nearly every corner of the developed world, allowing others to use this technology could conflict with their bottom line.
Google has been rumored to use microdrones to build out StreetView maps, a claim which the company denied, saying the drone in question was for private use by one of their executives.