The Rise of Drones and Homefront Application
In the past few years, with the rise in the use of drones in warfare, there have been some serious discussions about the ethics of these unmanned warriors that patrol the sky. Last week’s Time Magazine cover story, “Rise of the Drones,” asks a very serious question about what happens to our privacy when the drones return home. (These devices are more neutrally known as UAV or UAS – Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or Systems).
Lev Grossman states, in his Time Mag article, Drone Home, “There’s something uncanny about drones. Flying one is a heady experience, but being watched by one is an eerie, oppressive, somewhat annoying feeling — wielding the Parrot in public will get you a range of reactions, from ‘OMG I have to try that” to ‘Get that giant bug out of my face. They’re machines with ghosts in them, and the ghost is saying, ‘I can see you, but you can’t see me.’ It’s roughly analogous to interacting with an anonymous commenter on a blog: you’re dealing with someone who is both present and absent, who has decided that what they say or do will have consequences for you but not for them.”
Imagine the uses and potential abuses of UALs by our government, the police and private enterprise – tracking the movements of criminals and illegal aliens, movie stars, private detectives working for suspicious spouses.
Drone (UAL) Application in the Pest Control Industry
Let’s drill down to our pest control industry. But first wrap around your mind the fact that drones can be purchased from local stores such as Brookstone and that UALs and other land based UASes are getting smaller every day.
It wasn’t long ago that our industry magazines were recommending the use of smart phones and video in the inspection process. And I believe they have played an overwhelmingly positive role in producing excellent evidence that informs our prospective customers while protecting our pest control staff from false accusations. Can this technology be manipulated? Absolutely! While I am not in enforcement, I would suspect that cases of abuse have occurred due the invasive power of camera technology placed in the hands of a home service worker.
Here is a video of the Parrot AR Drone, a popular iPhone or iPad operated UAL. The video explains setup and operation. It also confirms the ability to operate the drone beyond direct sight of the aircraft!
Here is a sales video for the Brookstone Rover spy tank:
When I first saw the Parrot AR Drone a couple of years ago, my mind immediately went to work thinking of possible uses in pest control. I decided against purchasing it because I mainly considered using it for bird inspections and my pest control company is not heavily into or desirous of bird work. But think of the possibilities, strolling down a commercial street with bird issues and documenting the bird contamination on the roofs. What better way of identifying properties that could use a cleanout.
The Parrot could be used for rodent observation on a roof or for detecting exclusion points without using a ladder. I never liked the idea of going up on a roof to inspect, particularly when the inspection was free. Is there a use here for a drone camera device?
How many times have you had a pest control employee call you at the office trying to explain the problems they saw on site and wondering how to price the job. Hand held cameras, video, Google Earth, Mapquest and Zillow provide tons of information. Now, with these drone cameras, you can view live air and ground based activity to truly lock down real time conditions on site and transmit those images and video to the home office.
Perhaps there is a use for the drone in a nasty attic or sub-area, or simply in tight, hard to reach areas that are inaccessible but needing inspection. Is all the technology there yet? I’m not sure. But it is getting better all the time.
I do think that it would be wise to let the customer know that you are taking video with a drone. Based on local laws, which will change over time, you may even want to get a consent form or formally let them know that the company owns the video. The problems are very similar to those of any camera device, except it can go much farther in its’ intrusive behavior.
Drone aircraft agricultural pest control applications may come first on a large scale. Who knows, perhaps we are already drone spraying poppy fields in Afganistan? How difficult would it be to make aerial drone pest control applications? Not only would the pilot have all his eyes on the cameras, but these cameras would be equipped with sensors for potential human or animal activity and shapes that would automatically shut off the treatments. It’s not perfect, but probably safer than manned flight without image detection.
I enjoy exploring new technology for my pest control team. There is no doubt that my staff enjoy getting their hands on it because it gives them a sense of empowerment. Is it time that you experimented with drone technology at your company?