A Right to Drones?

Popular resistance to the commercial adoption of UAV technology is understood by many in the industry to be the result of negative associations with the word “drone.” Our underlying fears about war, foreign policy, terrorism, and shifting privacy norms are evoked by the term, which most of us first heard used to describe weapons systems like the infamous Predator. Technology enthusiasts believe that the tech itself is neutral, and that democratization will open the public’s eyes to a universe of acceptable and appealing civilian applications. Widespread adoption and experimentation will foster both acceptance and innovation.


This is the promise of “technological democratization” — that initial disruption caused by radically new technologies gives way to adaptation and acceptance as the inventions become commonplace. Many expect this will happen with UAVs, just as it did with the automobile and the personal computer. But is it reasonable to expect that widespread adoption will turn the tide of public opinion? In this session, a diverse panel of thinkers will explore the possible outcomes of drone democratization, delving into the relationship between the promise UAVs hold for society and the peril they embody in the public imagination.