Poll shows Americans support multiple domestic drone uses

A poll conducted by Monmouth University last month shows that the U.S. public supports certain domestic uses of unmanned aerial vehicles, particularly applications related to search and rescue. However, most Americans haven’t heard a lot about the use of UAVs by law enforcement within the U.S. and harbor some privacy concerns.

Of the individuals surveyed, 60 percent had heard “a great deal” or “some” about the use of UAVs by the U.S. military overseas. In contrast, less than half (47 percent) could say the same about the use of UAVs by law enforcement agencies within the United States.

Nevertheless, respondents were not closed off to the idea of using UAVs domestically. While the vast majority were unenthusiastic about being issued a speeding ticket by a UAV, 83 percent supported their use for search and rescue missions and 62 percent supported their use to control illegal immigration. These attitudes mirror those seen in a similar survey conducted by the university last year.

With regard to weaponized UAVs within U.S. borders, a slight majority (52 percent) supported their use by law enforcement in hostage situations. Fewer (44 percent) supported using armed drones to patrol U.S. borders.

When asked about privacy concerns associated with law enforcement using unmanned systems, 49 percent said they were “very concerned” while 20 percent were “somewhat concerned.” Responses also showed some skepticism about whether federal and state law enforcement would use UAVs appropriately, with only 11 percent “very confident” in federal agencies and 12 percent in local police departments.

In addition, respondents overwhelmingly (76 percent) believed law enforcement agencies should be required to obtain a warrant before using a UAV.

These results — including a lack of knowledge about domestic UAV use and overall privacy concerns — confirm the general consensus in the unmanned systems community about the current state of public acceptance. In a recent interview with The Business of Robotics, Michael Toscano, president and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, said his group’s biggest near-term priority is education and communication.

The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute on July 25-30 with a national random sample of 1,012 adults age 18 and older. To see the complete results, click here: Monmouth University Poll.

[ image courtesy of Monmouth University ]