Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and drones are becoming popular tools for both companies and individuals to carry out a variety of tasks including package delivery, surveillance, and as a platform for providing telecommunication services. Amazon and Google in particular have invested funds into researching the use of drones as delivery platforms. As the use of UAVs increases, questions arise about how to properly manage the airspace they occupy and the appropriate use of devices that can record people without their consent or possibly be weaponized. Specifically, there are ethical questions regarding privacy rights, property rights, and the rights of individuals to partake in any activity they prefer so long as they are not harming others.

Amazon's proposed delivery drone

There is a difference between UAVs and drones. UAVs can be controlled during flight, while drones fly a preset flight path that has been programmed into it.

Currently on Amazon, the price of UAVs/drones range from about $30 to a few thousand dollars. Most are sold with a HD video camera. YouTube is filled with videos of such devices recording various events around the world.

While these videos can provide entertaining and useful content, they also pose dangers due to reckless use and invasion of privacy.

The rising use of UAVs/drones poses numerous issues with regards to Libertarianism:

“Libertarians believe that individuals have the right to do whatever they want with their property, whether that property is an object or one’s own body, person, labor power, and life.” The personal use of drones should not be restricted by the government. The use of the drone, which is an individual’s own property, is that individual’s right to use as they please. “Each of us has a fundamental right to liberty - the right to do whatever we want with the things we own, provided we respect other people’s rights to do the same.”

"Individuals are not free to violate others’ property” and “the government must employ military, police, or judicial functions to punish individuals who violate others’ liberty.” If a person’s use or commercial application of drones infringes on another person’s property or liberty, then it is deserving of punishment. If it does not harm others, or it would only cause harm to them, no action or laws should be initiated.

“Confining the government’s power to punish to only those actions that threaten liberty and property.” The only action that should be taken by the government is to punish those whose use of drones violate an individual’s rights. Say, for example, a drone flying low over a person’s property and interfering with their life. A clear understanding of how low a drone can fly to be considered a nuisance or violation of an individual's liberty would need to be established.

“The government should not be allowed to impose a certain view of the good life on its citizens (no morals legislation) or to enact laws to protect individuals from harming themselves (no paternalism).” It’s not the government’s right to tell people if using drones is immoral or a violation of privacy.

This opinion is based on the use of drones for personal and commercial use, not, for example, the use of drones by the government for surveillance. That application would be considered a violation of an individual’s liberty and property and a complete overstepping of the government’s role in society.

Ethics Issues:
- Spying on neighbors
- Recording/photographing others without permission
- Use of facial recognition software or other tools to collect data

Property Rights
- Invasion of airspace over someone's property; noise pollution
- Recording of intellectual property (concerts, areas where sensitive operations occur)

Security & Safety
- Interference with commercial airliners, other manned aircraft
- Damage caused by crashed vehicles

Environmental Issues
- The National Park Service uses unmanned aircraft for administrative purposes such as search and rescue, fire operations and scientific study
- However, UAVs can also cause noise and nuisance complaints from park visitors, incidents in which park wildlife are harassed, or other park visitor safety concerns

Possible Courses of Action:
Increase the awareness of these ethical problems.
Kant: doing the right thing for the right reason, respecting people as ends

Regulations and Restrictions on use
Aristotle: politics--common good, care for the fate of the community as a whole.

Is the Libertarian response to not regulate or restrict the use of drones for personal use as long as they don’t infringe on other’s right to liberty sustainable?
Is it really possible to use a drone in a way that doesn't have the potential to harm others? What role should the government play in ensuring peoples’ rights are not violated?