UAVs Pros Cons symposium puts unmanned aircraft into perspective

Ian Hanna DJI.jpg

Unmanned aircraft, more commonly referred to as drones, is perhaps one of the most widely covered and yet least understood technologies of our day. Depending on the news story you happen to read, drones are a harbinger of death hanging above suburban America, or beneficent robotic overlords who will deliver us all pizza.

The purpose of the UAVs Pros Cons symposium in Toronto, which took place June 30 at Ryerson University's Ted Rogers School of Business Management in downtown Toronto, Canada, was to provide an even-keeled discussion of the facts, fears, and hopes of this disruptive technology with experts.

Ian Hannah, who operates unmanned aircraft for his aerial photography business, gave an excellent introduction to drones and their many peaceful uses in media, agriculture, and scientific research. He also brought his DJI hexcopter, a six-bladed helicopter capable of lifting digital SLR cameras, which is equipped with a high-end camera gimbal system.

For the final talk of the symposium, I explored the portrayal of drones in the media, and discussed the etymology and definition of a "drone" (a word that dates back almost 120 years and specifically applies to non-autonomous vehicles). The talk also revisits the idea of "drones for good" and how drones can provide communities valuable data in times of crisis, and what kind of special ethical considerations drone journalists may have to consider.

Nikola Danaylov of the Singularity Weblog provided excellent video documentation of all these talks, and posted them free to the public. Additional speakers included Katina Michael of the University of Wollongong and Avner Levin of Ryerson University. Andrew Clement of the University of Toronto spoke to the implications of unmanned aircraft on privacy.

UAVs Pros Cons was sponsored by in part by and Ryerson University and the Privacy & Cyber Crime Institute at the Ted Rogers School of Business Management provided patronage of this event. Convenors for this event included Katina Michael (Wollongong), Alexander Hayes (, Susannah Sabine (, Rob Manson (MOBLabs), Jai Galliot (, and myself.

Below are videos of Hannah and myself talking for UAVs Pros Cons. Videos of all speakers are available on the Singularity Weblog.

Posted on July 16, 2013 .