¶ … Utilitarian Viewpoint of Drones
The topic discussed within this document is "Uncharted Territory: When Innovation Outpaces Regulation for Private Use of Drones." What is interesting about this topic is that the crux of it revolves about the fact that quite frequently in technological applications, innovations and availability outstrips regulation and user consistency. For the sake of this document, however, this phenomenon will be explored solely through the usage and ramifications pertaining to drones.
The ethical issues pertaining to drones primarily involve privacy. Drones are a means of remotely achieving physical objectives by utilizing small, highly maneuverable objects that are controlled from vast distances. These objects first gained notoriety with their deployment in the United States military, in which they were used to conduct assaults and to obtain intelligence. Although it is highly unlikely that drones will become available for commercial use for the aforementioned purpose, it is worth considering (especially in terms of ethics) that once in the hands of private individuals, they can configure them to launch any variety of attacks. Thus, one of the ethical issues pertaining to drones for commercial use is that they have the potential to inflict harm and are dangerous, despite whatever purported good they are capable of producing. The larger issue about drones is that they can potentially impinge upon privacy (Wald, 2013). By obtaining data about a particular person or a business, drones can effectively yield intelligence and personable identifiable information about others in ways that are more difficult to accomplish without drones. People can effectively access one another and determine information about one another remotely, and with more efficacy than they can with 'conventional' technology such as smartphones. Without a regulatory industry in place specific to drones, their commercial applications and privacy, there is no limit to the ways that they can intrude on privacy. The regulation of drones in the U.S. is tenuous at best, and is handled by the Federal Aviation Authority. The FAA permits drones from flying over 400 feet in public airspace, and offers its approval on a case by case basis for any flying that is not expressly used for the purposes of a hobby (Sterbenz, 2014). But this entity is not expressly concerned with privacy. There are several drones that are used within various industries such as film and photography for their recording capabilities -- either video or still photographs. Thus, the privacy issue remains salient for citizens. Other ethical issues pertain to safety and potential traffic accidents that may occur when drones are flown too close to one another. In addition to their potential for photographing and taking surveillance footage of private individuals, other use cases for commercial drones most eminently include delivery businesses. The logic is that it would be cheaper to invest in a piece of hardware that can issue repeated deliveries instead of the conventional means for doing so.
Two Traditional Theories
A Utilitarian perspective of analyzing the ethical implications of the commercial usage of drones would focus on a couple of key aspects of those issues. Utilitarianism tends to focus on the amount of good produced by an action or the author of an action, and deem it ethical if it outweighs the potential detrimental aspects of that action or author. In this case, the ability to utilize drones in public spaces is able to produce the desired result for videographers and photographers, some of which are able to obtain footage from angles with a drone that might be too costly or too inconvenient to access otherwise. Additionally, one can also employ drones to save lives and issue healthcare needs (Leiber, 2014). However, while attaining such footage they could just as easily procure even more footage of individuals and those in domestic settings, which could obliterate the rights to privacy of the latter. Additionally, there is always the potential that drones could cause more immediate harm by crashing into one another or into other objects in public spaces, and launching some sort of assault. A Utilitarian perspective would compare the amount of good produced from the obtaining of footage and the delivery of goods with the potential for negativity in the form of loss of privacy (Gershman, 2014), assaults, and dangerous actions. The way the regulation of drones currently stands, Utilitarian philosophy would likely discourage the use of drones for commercial applications because...
This perspective could be severely changed, however, were some form of stiffer regulations incorporated regarding both privacy and dangerous applications of drones, whether or not the latter was intentional. The only way a Utilitarian perspective could condone commercial drones is if the risks and ramifications for violations of privacy and safety were better clarified than they are now. This objective could perhaps be achieved by the establishment of a drone regulatory agency as part of the FAA that focused on these issues.
A deontologist, however, would likely favor the application of drones for commercial usage since deontologists are primarily concerned with the fulfillment of their duties. If drones enable Amazon employees to deliver goods faster and more efficiently, then a deontologist would consider their usage a vital tool for the fulfillment of their primary duty of delivering goods. Moreover, deontologists would likely favor the current FAA regulation of drones, which involves permitting commercial use on a case by case basis. Deontologists would believe that the individuality of each ruling by the FAA would consider the potential ramifications of the express use of the jobs done by those trying to deploy drones, and permit or prevent companies from using them accordingly.
Ethical Relativism and Globalization
The impacts of globalization and ethical relativism on the suggested dilemma resolutions are varied. Quite simply, globalization could greatly exacerbate the deontologist solution -- which is actually the one that is in place now and involves the FAA simply reviewing each individual case of the commercial use of drones. Without uniform standards in place about what organizations can and cannot do with drones (as well as how they can and cannot do them), the presence of multinational companies and overseas entities can substantially complicate such a resolution. Quite simply, the needs of overseas companies might differ from those of their counterparts that are entirely based in America. Additionally, the latter can potentially make the ethical situation more complex by utilizing technology that is at variance with that used in America -- which is another reason that approval on a case by case basis might not work. Moreover, ethical relativism is at the core of this deontologist resolution for a couple of different reasons. Since the FAA approves cases for the commercial usage of drones on an individual basis, there are a number of relative factors for this entity to consider. It is not unlikely that situations may arise in which the FAA approves the usage of drones for one organization in a particular industry yet refuses to do so for another -- since there is no overarching objective basis for its decision. Thus, it has approved the testing of drones for Companies such as Amazon, while other companies are not permitted to test drones (Belfiore, 2015). Instead, its decision are based upon the relevance of any number of factors, and how this organization perceives those factors might affect those utilizing the drones and the surrounding community at large. The influence of relativism can make the subjective nature of the choices for which entities are allowed to conduct commercial droning (and which are not) even more tenuous than doing so from a deontologist perspective-based duty.
However, the effects of both globalization and ethical relativism are significantly mitigated when the solution of creating an organization within the FAA specifically to address safety and privacy issues of droning are considered. Such a solution is actually desirable in the face of globalization, because it would offer a uniform, federalized way of dealing with these issues in regards to droning .Thus, organizations from foreign countries can readily understand what standards they have to adapt to in order to engage in commercial droning in a safe fashion that does not impinge on the rights to privacy. And again, by analyzing the overall utility achieved for businesses in comparison to the detriments that the surrounding community will receive -- particularly when there are privacy and safety regulations in place -- the utilitarian solution addresses both the needs of businesses and of society. In fact, it does so in relation to the greater society of the world when one stops to consider how globalization will affect this resolution.
The Best Solution
It appears that the resolution based on Utilitarianism would be more sustainable than that which considers the deontologist's perspective, for the simple fact that the former would present a uniformed, orderly means of accounting for the ethical issues involved. It also appears that the FAA is in the process…
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