Drones for Good: Technological Innovations, Social Movements, and the State

Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick
December 11, 2014

The increased use of and attention to drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), have led to a widespread debate about their application. Much of this debate has centered on their use by governments, often for the purpose of surveillance and warfare. This focus on the state’s use obscures the opportunity for civil society actors, including social movements, to make use of these technologies. This article briefly reviews the technological innovation before proceeding to a typology of civil society uses, ranging from art to digital disruption. This typology emphasizes the dual-use nature of this technology and, in the process, highlights the need for a best-practices framework to guide such use. Drone usage for the public good, it is argued, should prioritize 1) subsidiarity; 2) physical and material security; 3) the “do no harm” principle; 4) the public good; and respect for 5) privacy, and 6) data. These factors are introduced and discussed.