The domestic use of unmanned aerial vehicles for homeland security, search and rescue and crime fighting has the support of a majority of Americans who participated in a survey, says a report by two research organizations.
The report — Unmanned Aircraft and the Human Element: Public Perceptions and First Responder Concerns — was produced by the Institute for Homeland Security Solutions, which conducts research for the Department of Homeland Security, and RTI International, which conducts research on national policies.
The researchers surveyed 2,000 participants on the use of UAVs within the United S
tates, and 57 percent of the respondents support the use of unmanned aircraft for any application, according to the report.
In addition, when asked about specific uses of the technology, the support for UAV use increased with 88 percent of the respondents supporting the use of unmanned aircraft for search and rescue operations; 67 percent of respondents supporting drone use in homeland security missions; 63 percent supporting the use of UAVs to fight crime; and 61 percent supporting the use of unmanned aircraft for commercial applications, the report says.
The collection of such data can help guide decisions on the use of UAVs, according to Joe Eyerman, the study’s lead author who is the director of RTI’s Center for Security, Defense and Safety and the co-director of the IHSS. “It’s important to understand the societal implications when new technologies are introduced,” he said. The survey data can help government avoid “costly missteps” when implementing UAV technology as well as the regulations that govern its use, he said.
In addition, a subset of the report’s respondents included law-enforcement officials, and they surpassed general respondents in supporting UAV use, according to the report. Of the law-enforcement officials surveyed, 93 percent said unmanned aerial vehicles would be a useful tool for search and rescue operations; 81 percent said drones would be useful to photograph crime scenes; 73 percent said the aircraft would be useful for drug interdiction; 72 percent said UAVs would be useful for surveillance; and 66 percent said the drones would be useful for emergency response.
“Despite the concerns associated with unmanned systems, this study shows the majority of law-enforcement officers find the potential advantages outweigh the risks and barriers,” Eyerman said.
Click here to access the report.