Great California Drone Debate


California could greatly benefit from a public debate on the use of UAS technology. This is a difficult debate to hold because different regions in California have different prevailing views and understand the issues related to the technology in very different ways. In large part this is because UAS technology is proposed to be used differently in different parts of the State.

In urban parts of the state the first proposals have come from police groups wanting to use the technology for surveillance — These proposals have not always received a warm reception. There are also peeping tom issues and concerns over data mining companies selling information on citizen’s gathered by drones.

In rural California, issues can be quite different. In the Sierra foothills the California’s exceptionally dry conditions are expected to produce a difficult fire season. There is little resistance in these areas to using UAS systems for fire fighting.  

California’s agricultural areas will be particularly hard hit by the drought. The use of remote sensing technology including UAS systems offers the chance to inexpensively increase on farm efficiency reducing the amount of pesticide, herbicide, fertilizer and water needed by farmers. However, issues on conflicts with crop dusters and concern over surveillance of farm operations and general government surveillance exist in rural areas as well. 

One way to assure a fair and even handed regional debate would be to use high school debate teams as moderators of an on-line discussion of the issues surrounding UAS systems. The students would moderate a public discussion of the technology for their region. Then each school would produce a well organized summary document describing the various points of view that were expressed in their on-line public debate.