Wireless Design & Development’s (WDD) recent post “Drone Danger in An Unlicensed Airspace” received a lot of feedback from our readers. Check out a few of my favorites (all sic), and add to the discussion in the comments section:
Reading your article about UAS, I reflect over the old days when they were called model airplanes. This hobby was completely unregulated, and the hobbyists were spending hours in their basement, living-rooms, or kitchens to assemble their jewel. The big difference today is that you can, for a low price, purchase something far more advanced than what you were building then. The proudness is no longer there but the versatility is way larger than in the past.
My biggest accomplishment was a monster of 25 pounds. Thank G-d it didn’t hit anything when I lost it in an ill maneuver.
I don’t know if licensing is the right approach, nor do I believe it is, but I guess that is the only way our politicians can figure it out.
I believe self-control among the manufacturers, such as limited weight and control range, would be a start. Naturally, larger UAS for commercial applications could be implemented with usual governmental oversight with insurance requirements. Why not involve insurance companies? They are around in other applications and usually put a brake on fast development.
Please keep this topic running as I think we have something that can enhance future, but still unknown, developments around the industry and economy.
Certainly there are many uses for drones that are of great benefit to the U.S. economy. Like any technology, there are risks of misuse by actions of some bad apples. However, to your point of how to protect against ill use of drones, there is already a solution readily available, if not yet widely used.
Some drone makers already use software that includes ‘Geo-fencing’, inherently disallowing drone use near airports, military bases, etc. While to date, geo-fencing of drones has been pre-programmed, several companies are working to develop drones with real-time reprogramming of geo-fenced operational restrictions. This would update software to disallow drone operation near certain sites, such as emergency response areas, large public events, or forest fire responses where firefighting helicopters are in the air (a recent example really freaked out the helicopter pilot, although the forest fire video was said by firefighters to be great).
Some of the technical solutions to the problem you raise are being quietly worked on by companies now. The FAA is, I believe, not yet aware of many of these developments, in part because some are either proprietary or being pursued by companies outside the U.S. (e.g. Australia).
My suggestion would be to focus more on promoting technologies to address these issues that are broadly needed, rather than promote hysteria over specific cases of possible misuse – which may get attention, but are not really so helpful in the overall discussion.
Thanks. Appreciate your reporting.
Dr. Phil McGillivary
Keeping Public Safety in Mind
In the medical device world, we talk about managing risks of devices when used according to their “intended use” (a legal term) and when a misuse is “reasonably foreseeable”. An example that quickly comes to mind for me goes back to a time when ECG electrode leadwires could be (and were) accidentally plugged into power outlets. There are myriad others.
It’s easy to see that drones could be used to intentionally inflict harm. It’s just as easy to see where a drone being used with the best of intentions (delivering supplies to people in a disaster situation, for instance) could fail in a way to cause unintended harm at any point in its mission.
Drones and systems that use drones need to be designed with the public safety in mind, and that means their design and operation need to be regulated. If history is any indicator, it will require a disaster to (re)learn that lesson.