In an interview with the Guardian, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said that consumers shouldn’t be able to keep drones for their personal use, because of potential problems they might cause.
“You’re having a dispute with your neighbor,” he said. “How would you feel if your neighbor went over and bought a commercial observation drone that they can launch from their back yard. It just flies over your house all day. How would you feel about it?”
Schmidt makes a good point: Drones have the capability to be seriously invasive. But that’s a bit rich coming from the Executive Chairman of Google, the company that was responsible for snagging data from wi-fi networks with its Street View cars, and has already tested self-driving vehicles. Never mind Google Glass, which straps a camera to the side of a user’s face, earning it a ban from a pair of Seattle businesses.
But as Bill Gates pointed out earlier this week, drones have the potential to be a force for good. It’s easy to see how drones could benefit rural communities, where a neighbor’s cup of sugar could easily be a few miles away.
It’s also entirely possible that Schmidt just wants to make sure the skies are clear for the upcoming drone war between major Internet and logistics companies. Google is reportedly also working on testing drone delivery for its services, a move that would compete with Amazon’s recently announced (but not yet realized) PrimeAir service. If average consumers are out flying their own drones, that could cause traffic jams or collision problems for commercial deliveries.
Still, it seems like this is the old maxim “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t” in action. Schmidt, who’s known for wanting to keep his personal life private, feels like he can trust Google and other large companies not to abuse their drone privileges, while private citizens seem less trustworthy. Whether or not those citizens trust Schmidt is another story.