this March 12, 2014 file photo, a drone flown by Brian
Wilson, prepares to land after flying over the scene of an
explosion that leveled two apartment buildings in the East
Harlem neighborhood of New York. Americans are deeply
skeptical that the benefits of the heralded drone revolution
will outweigh the risks to privacy and safety, although a
majority approve of using small, unmanned aircraft in
dangerous jobs or remote areas, according to a new
Americans are skeptical that the benefits of the heralded drone
revolution will outweigh the risks to privacy and safety, although
a majority approve of using small, unmanned aircraft for dangerous
jobs or in remote areas, according to a new Associated Press-GfK
By a 2-1 margin,
those who had an opinion opposed using drones for commercial
purposes. Only 21 percent favored commercial use of drones,
compared with 43 percent opposed. Another 35 percent were in the
With a few narrow
exceptions, the Federal Aviation Administration prohibits
commercial use of drones but is about to propose regulations that
will broaden the use of small ones. It may be two or three years
before the rules take effect, but once they do thousands are
expected to buzz U.S. skies.
Congress may also
step in next year to try to nudge the FAA to move faster. Drones
are forecast to create 100,000 jobs and $82 billion in economic
impact in the first 10 years they're allowed, according to the
Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, a trade
Only 3 percent of
people say they've operated small drones, which are essentially
the same as remote-controlled model aircraft.
Support for using
commercial drones was the weakest among women and seniors, while
college graduates and wealthier people were more apt to favor it.
26, said drones are just the latest technological advancement and
he doesn't understand why anyone would oppose them.
wild to think about it," said Farber, who works in a casino
in Atlantic City, New Jersey. "It's literally something you
would see in a movie and now they're talking about it like it's a
true possibility. I think it's inevitable it will happen. I think
it's a great thing."
Williams, 66, said she doesn't believe "the average person
should be allowed to just go out and get one to do whatever they
want to do with it." She worries people will put guns or
other weapons on them and use them for sinister purposes.
of drones is another concern. "This is still a remote-control
vehicle, and those things go amok," said Williams, a retired
nonprofit organization manager who lives in Fort Collins,
Still, the survey
showed many Americans see value in the use of drones for certain
tasks, such as inspecting oil platforms and bridges. Majorities
also said they favor using drones to help map terrain through
aerial photography, and to monitor wildlife.
But — Amazon
take note — only 1 in 4 thinks using drones to deliver small
packages is a good idea. Thirty-nine percent were opposed, and 34
percent were neutral on that question. Nearly the same share
opposed using drones to take photographs or videos at weddings and
other private events. A third opposed allowing farmers to use
drones to spray crops, while another third supported it. Only 23
percent said they favored the recreational use of small drones.
Ramona Jones, 65,
said that if Amazon uses drones to deliver packages as it has
proposed, delivery services like UPS, FedEx and the postal service
won't be far behind. She envisions skies crowded with drones
running into each other and raining debris on people below.
futuristic, but how are they going to manage that?" said
Jones, of Austin, Texas. "Just like we have cars on the
highway ... somebody is still going to hit somebody else."
54, a history professor at Ohio Northern University, said he
favors commercial use of drones but has misgivings.
definitely improve people's lives," he said. "Of course,
they could also make them miserable with the kind of spying that
people could do on each other. It's a double-edged sword."
three-fifths of those polled said they were extremely or very
concerned that private operators could use drones in a way that
The FAA is
expected to propose restricting drones weighing less than 55
pounds to flights under 400 feet high, forbid nighttime flights,
and require drones be kept within sight of their operators.
It also may
require drone operators to get pilot's licenses, which would be
controversial. Critics say the skills needed to fly a manned
aircraft are different from those needed to operate a drone. But
64 percent support requiring the pilot's licenses.
Eddy Dufault, 58,
a machinist and part-time wildlife photographer in Marlborough,
Massachusetts, who is considering buying a drone, said he agrees
with most of the restrictions, but opposes licensing. It can cost
$15,000 for the needed training, he said, adding it would be more
appropriate to require operators to attend a few classes and pass
a drone flight test.
people who are going to abuse it no matter what you do," he
said, "but 99.9 percent of them won't."
The poll of 1,010
adults was conducted online Dec. 4-8, using a sample drawn from
GfK's probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be
representative of the U.S. population. The margin of error for all
respondents is plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.