The influential head of Google, Eric Schmidt, has called for civilian drone technology to be regulated, warning about privacy and security concerns.
Cheap miniature versions of the unmanned aircraft used by militaries could fall into the wrong hands, he told the UK’s Guardian newspaper.
Quarrelling neighbours, he suggested, might end up buzzing each other with private surveillance drones.
He also warned of the risk of terrorists using the new technology.
Mr Schmidt is believed to have close relations with US President Barack Obama, whom he advises on matters of science and technology.
“You’re having a dispute with your neighbour,” he told The Guardian in an interview printed on Saturday.
“How would you feel if your neighbour went over and bought a commercial observation drone that they can launch from their backyard. It just flies over your house all day. How would you feel about it?”
Warning of mini-drones’ potential as a terrorist weapon, he said: “I’m not going to pass judgment on whether armies should exist, but I would prefer to not spread and democratise the ability to fight war to every single human being.”
“It’s got to be regulated… It’s one thing for governments, who have some legitimacy in what they’re doing, but have other people doing it… it’s not going to happen.”
Small drones, such as flying cameras, are already available worldwide, and non-military surveillance were recently introduced to track poachers in the remote Indian state of Assam.
The US and Israel have led the way in recent years in using drones as weapons of war as well as for surveillance.
America’s Federal Aviation Administration is currently exploring how commercial drones, or unmanned aircraft systems, can be safely introduced into US airspace.