People today tend to gravitate toward aesthetically pleasing photographs rather than reading plain text any day of the week. A relatively new piece of technology that is bringing a fresh perspective of ordinary things is the drone. Its unreachable point of view draws the attention of the public because it is an angle that is not seen every day.
Barbelin Hall, Photo by Rob Focht

There is a lot of controversy with drone usage due to the protection of wildlife and privacy reasons. The use of drones is prohibited in many state parks by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). They have strict laws and regulations about where, when, and what one is flying, which can be seen on the FAA website. There was recently a video trending on Twitter of a bear trying to climb a slippery slope taken by a drone. The noise and proximity of the drone could have scared the two bears, making it harder for them to climb up the slope successfully.

For privacy reasons, however, SJU has a strict “No Drone Policy” that can be seen in the student handbook on page 49. We’ve interviewed Mike Lyons of the communications department to ask him his thoughts on drones since he uses them frequently around campus for special projects.

Barbelin Hall, Photo by Rob Focht

Interviewer: What experiences have you had with using a drone on campus?

Lyons: I have used them a few times on campus and have been approached by security every time. Once I was told that they were not allowed on campus. Once I was told I need a license. There is a lot of misinformation out there.

Interviewer: Have you ever gotten in trouble for using one?

Lyons: Yes, security got testy with me a few times. But I did not comply and they kind of went away.

Interviewer: What is your opinion of the no drone policy on campus?

Lyons: Like with any type of media use, I think a straight up ban is never a good idea. We use it for classes to teach aerial photography, which has become important in a lot of fields and necessary to tell a lot of different kinds of stories. So this is a case where the university’s fear of being sued has bumped up against its pedagogical mission.

Interviewer: Why do you choose to use a drone over other ways of acquiring media?

Lyons: Aerial photography and videography offers a valuable perspective for a lot of stories. For example, in one class we used the drone to shoot video of abandoned buildings in the city and you come to understand how these properties fit into a neighborhood when you see them in full context. You can’t get that connect or tell those stories the same way from ground level.

Aerial of the library, Photo by Rob Focht

Laws and regulations for technologies cannot exist until they are received by the general public and the effect on society can be gauged. If the product is deemed disruptive or dangerous, only after the fact is when the laws can be made. This shows the trend that technology comes before regulations, shaping them due to how they affect society. Similarly, laws shape technology that then directly shapes us, having a direct impact on our lives.

People of this generation consume the technology that is developed for them without thinking about its effects on society and even legislation as shown through the drone. Technology needs to be questioned and analyzed instead of using it blindly.

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