Drones belong to a broad class of accelerating technologies that are increasing in capabilities as they decrease in cost. Driving this acceleration of technical capability is the exponential growth of information. Computer hardware and software, advanced aircraft materials, and imaging technologies such as high-resolution video cameras are all benefiting from lower costs and higher performance. For some applications, what used to take a $1 million drone can now be accomplished with a drone that costs less than$1,000.

Technologies such as drones that undergo rapid technological acceleration have several patterns in common. They are often initially sponsored by the military but end up with the vast majority of their applications in the commercial sector, providing an astonishing variety of social benefits. The new capabilities can also be used for evil purposes by terrorists or for questionable purposes by the well-meaning. Attempts...