There’s an entire convention happening in Washington, DC this week for those in the drone business, but the unmanned aerial enthusiasts with close ties to the industry are going out of their way to keep the “d-word” from dropping by.
At the annual Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International conference in DC, there are UAVs and other robotic systems aplenty. But at a time when the autonomous aircraft are most well-known for executing lethal strikes overseas, often ones killing civilians, those involved in the drone-biz are trying to drop that dastardly reputation, beginning first with ditching the word “drone.”
"The average person on the street, and even intelligent and informed people, when they think of the word ‘drone,’ they think of the military, they think hostile, they think weaponized, they think large and they think autonomous,” Michael Toscano, president of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems, told Breaking Defense.
“If you say the word ‘drone,’ 80 percent will pick the picture of a Predator – that’s what’s wrong,” Toscano told the magazine.
Now as America prepares to enter a new age of drones where UAVs are expected to soar in United States airspace soon by the tens of thousands, Toscano and company are trying to change their livelihood from being associated with lethal strikes.
The Federal Aviation Administration recently approved the first two commercial UAV applications, and those drones are expected to start flying later this month. But even those ones will be used for environmental purposes, they are still not breaking the stigma that comes with ones that are weaponized or used for high-tech surveillance. Although it’s not the goal of the conference, the AUVS wants “drone” to go away.
Talking to the Washington Times, Toscano acknowledged that the “d-word,” and hopefully the negative connotation that comes with it, aren’t used to demonize what some say could be a very crucial tool for the future.
“If you look around here today, you don’t see that,” he
said. “Drones” is not a word he wants to be associated with.
“The key word is the word ‘systems.’ That’s the word we hope the public will understand,” he said. “There is a human being in the system. The human being is what makes the system. When you say the word ‘drone,’ you don’t think of a human being in control. That’s the real reason why” not to use the word “drone,” he said.
Earlier this month at the annual DefCon hacker conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, robotics scientist and drone enthusiast Dr. Andrew “Zoz” Brooks told RT, “I [feel] like now we are on the cusp of shared use acceptance of driverless vehicles on the road, shared airspace with UAVs, and so it’s time to think about adversarial relationships and how we make these systems bulletproof.”
But even if others are still learning that living alongside autonomous vehicles will soon be unavoidable, Toscano and company don’t want every UAV to be pigeonholed into the same category as those nasty drones.
Want further proof? The WiFi password at this year’s convention, the Times reported, is “DontSayDrones.”