Jefferson Morley writes: Stung by mounting hostility from the left and right, America’s drone industry is fighting back.
“We’re going to do a much better job of educating people about unmanned aviation, the good and the bad,” said Michael Toscano, president of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the industry’s trade group in Washington. “We’re working on drafting the right message and how to get it out there.”
The P.R. blitz comes after drones suffered a round of negative attention last week. Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer called for a ban on drones in U.S. airspace, and two other conservative commentators endorsed the idea of shooting down unmanned aircraft flown by U.S. law enforcement agencies. (Opposition to the U.S. government’s deployment of unmanned vehicles had previously come from left-liberal groups concerned about civilian casualties in the drone war in Pakistan and potential threats to civil liberties at home.) The nation also witnessed drone “scares”: An unidentified flying object nearly collided with a plane over Denver, and rumors circulated of a surveillance drone flying near the NATO summit in Illinois.
After issuing a statement denouncing Krauthammer’s remarks as “irresponsible” and “dangerous,” Toscano said the AUVSI would go on the offensive against critics. While the strategy is still being shaped, Toscano made it sound like something straight out of a crisis-management textbook — or Orwell. The AUVSI wants to bombard the American public with positive images and messages about drones in an effort to reverse the growing perception of the aircraft as a threat to privacy and safety. [Continue reading…]