Drones have been making us feel uneasy for years – the unmanned machines are capable of spying on activities anywhere in the world, and with just a single command they can wipe out huge numbers of people.
Not only that, but they mess up their targets pretty easily – a recent study by human rights group Reprieve into the accuracy of US drone strikes revealed they often kill many more people than they intend to.
But risk or no risk, drones are becoming “essential” for almost every military mission according to a UN peacekeeping panel, and their range of uses is broadening beyond combat.
In a report compiled by the UN on technological advances for peacekeeping missions, the intergovernmental body says drones, also known as Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAEs), represent the “kind of technology that no mission should do without, except under specifically defined political circumstances. They are simply too useful a tool to pretend otherwise”.
But it highlights that their presence is spreading into all areas of society, and urges readers to “recognize that this technology is becoming ever more widely available for every conceivable application in the commercial, law enforcement, military and social spheres.”
An example is the adoption of the machines by companies reliant on delivering packages. Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba started trials of the delivery system earlier this month, while Amazon is currently testing of its Prime Air service in India.
The report added that the use of miniature, or so-called “pocket” drones, was becoming much more common, despite the attempts of some jurisdictions to limit their use.
In an article posted on the UN's website two days ago, peace and security expert Jane Holl Lute said drones are a “good example of one technology of which a lot of organizations around the world are making increasing use”.
She said that for military purposes, the ability to “visualize your operating area of responsibility from the air is an essential capability for every mission, really with only a few exceptions.”
According to the UN, as drones become more and more widespread there must be a focus on making their deployments and underlying systems transparent.
It says drones should be put into mission areas for “narrow political purposes” only, and that contrary to popular belief, they are not a “non-transparent and intrusive technology”.
But whether or not the UN and its member states abide by these rules, they are not going to be the only ones adopting the technology – and the mysterious drones currently circulating above Paris are evidence that transparency isn't going to be prioritised by all users.