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The Spectator
founded 2004 by ron cruger
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 by Jon Burras
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Just Say "NO" to Drones!
       You are on vacation while staying at a five-star luxury resort, enjoying the peacefulness of the moment and the opportunity to get away. Your hotel room is located on the tenth floor with a spectacular panoramic view of the expanses below. You have just stepped out of the shower, relaxing in your birthday suit within your own private room when you look out through the open window and notice something hovering within close distance from your room. A small drone with a camera is perched outside spying on you. Who knows who is at the controls of this secretive drone or where the pictures might be sold at. Congratulations, you are the latest victim of a drone attack.
       A drone is a small flying computer that can look like a helicopter or even an airplane. A drone is usually capable of staying aloft for a good amount of time and can carry anything from a tiny camera to a guided missile. Drones are remotely controlled by someone who is either in eye sight of the flying space craft or even by someone thousands of miles away.
       Drones have come to our attention in an alarming way over the last few years. First the military began to use drones to track and often kill suspected terrorists with a guided missile. The border patrol began using drones to watch over inhospitable territory that people crossing the border illegally might be passing through. The next generation of drones became very user-friendly for the common person as many private citizens and industries began to utilize drones. Some of these industries include the following: movie makers, artists, land surveyors, farmers, photographers, paparazzi, real estate salespeople, civil engineers and many more.
       Here in lies the problem. Technology has far surpassed our laws and ability to determine risk factors for those new technologies. Many problems have already arisen in regard to drones and many potential problems lie ahead. The FAA (Federal Aeronautics Administration) which is in charge of the national airspace, has yet to issue clear guidelines or regulations on how drones can be used.
       For instance, last year a drone inadvertently landed on the White House lawn, scrambling the secret service and raising the red flag about how easy it is to penetrate the White House defenses with these flying computers. The owner of the drone was found and was arrested.
       Drones have been reported hovering over or near airports in hundreds of incidences. According to BloombergBusiness.com there were 238 drone incident sightings near airports reported in 2014 and 650 cases reported so far in 2015 (as of August 1, 2015). Some of these drone intrusions were near misses for commercial and private aircraft who managed to avoid a collision. It would be just as easy for a drone to cause a plane to crash as it would be for a flock of geese who might happen to fly in its path. A drone, either by accident or intentionally, can disable an engine on takeoff and cause the airplane to lose lift and crash.
       Drones have also been reported to have disrupted police and firefighter activity. This past year we have seen on several occasions that drones flown by amateur hobbyists have halted firefighting operations during wild fires. Helicopter and aircraft water drops have had to be delayed or stopped on many occasions as drones have gone airborne and have infiltrated into the airspace above and around an active fire. This has prohibited life-saving water drops from taking place.
       Drones have been known to lose power and fly out of control into crowds or injuring innocent bystanders on the beach. Drones can lose power, malfunction and can also be flown by someone who does not have the skill set to keep it aloft.
       Drones have been used on many occasions to spy on celebrities who are residing in their private residences or at exclusive resorts. The paparazzi have gone to extreme measures to hunt down and photograph celebrities in their most personal of times, either in public places or behind their own private walls of their homes. The drone is just another weapon in the case of celebrity stalking.
       Recently an inventive individual mounted a handgun on a drone and was able to fire on multiple targets while changing speed and direction. It might not be long before we see a machine gun, flame thrower or canon mounted to a civilian drone as one angry individual attempts to solve his dispute with his neighbor in the most violent of ways.
       These hair-raising incidences are those that have already occurred in this new-found drone culture. Can you visualize the craziness ahead if we do not put a stop to it all now. Imagine a remote controlled drone flying unimpeded over the Super Bowl and releasing a deadly virus like Ebola onto a crowd of sixty-thousand people. Imagine some terrorist group mounting a bomb on a drone and flying it onto the White House roof or onto the Capital dome in Washington D.C. What would it be like if a World Cup soccer match were interrupted by a drone with a machine gun attached and firing wildly into the crowd of spectators?
       To be fair, there are some valuable uses for drones. Farmers can evaluate their fields from high above to get an accurate picture of how their crops are growing. Real estate salespeople can provide a dramatic view of a property they are attempting to sell. Movie makers are enamored by drones as they can get magnificent shots like never before. Sports teams, from professional to high school, often film practices and games using drones. Giant media companies are using drones to film large out door events like golf, surfing or sailing regattas.
       Amazon.com, the online sales giant, has initiated an ambitious plan to deliver small packages right to your doorstep using drones. Drones, for instance, can be used in emergencies to fly medical supplies to people who cannot be reached by roads.
       While there are several beneficial uses for drones, the risks far outweigh the rewards. Right now the FAA has not issued a ruling because this government agency is being lobbied heavily on all sides. The pro-drone coalition is trying to influence the FAA to allow an open drone policy where anyone can be allowed to use a drone. The pilots' associations and others are attempting to limit or ban drones altogether. Like the rest of politics, decisions often come down to how many lobbyists can win over a government body.
       Some say that it is already too late and "the Genie is already out of the bottle. The drone technology is already here and you cannot take it back." This is a very weak argument. Look at all of the items that were once popular and have since been banned. Lawn darts were a popular game played at backyard barbecues in the 1980's. Lawn darts were a short spiky metal object with a point on it that was thrown at a target. Lawn darts were finally banned in 1987 due to their harming and killing people accidently. "Easy Bake Ovens," "Kite Tubes" and "Click Clacks" were also popular designer toys banned because of their danger. Metallic skinned balloons have been banned in many places as they can come in contact with a power line when released into the air causing a power outage.
       We do not allow the average citizen to own a bazooka, drive down the street in a battle tank or wear a vest with live grenades strapped to one's chest. Why should we allow corporations or individual citizens to own a piece of equipment that has so much potential for evil-doings? Drone enthusiasts are often "gamers" who have pulled themselves out of their basement chairs and ventured out into the world of air and wind. They are often familiar with the hand skills necessary to operate a drone. Gamers also are used to combat, destroying imaginary enemies and launching attacks.
       Science and technology have an interesting manner of dealing with potentially threatening inventions. Instead of admitting that something that science and technology created was a bad idea, the scientists and technologists just attempt to place another layer of science and technology on top of this bad idea. For instance, one of the proposals for the next generation drone is to place a computer chip within the inner workings of the drone. This "death chip" can shut down a drone remotely by someone other than the owner. For instance, if a drone is hampering firefighting activity, firefighters can point a special laser at the drone, causing it to lose power and fall out of the sky.
       Imagine the constant hum of noise if drones are allowed to proliferate. You will be besieged by ever-present low level buzzing and humming noises from regular package deliveries roaming overhead to the curious ten-year-old next door neighbor boy with his "Go Pro" camera attached spying on the teenage girls at the pool party three blocks over. Not to mention, you might be in a area where people take matters into their own hands and form drone-hunting parties. You might hear an occasional shotgun blast as another drone is knocked out of the air like a clay pigeon shooting practice.
       Unless something is done now to curtail this movement, the FAA estimates that there will be at least 30,000 drones hovering overhead in the next twenty years. This sounds like a conservative estimate. Just like the fact that every teenager usually owns a bicycle, it might become true that every teenager needs to own a drone as well. Throw in a few drone-owning grandmothers, corporations, charities, sports teams, media outlets and the rest of society and you will see a sky full of noisy flying computers.
       Making rules to limit drone use will not work. Establishing "safe zones" around airports is already not working. Making disasters like fires, floods, tornadoes and earthquakes off-limits for drone enthusiasts already is not working. Who will enforce such laws? How many police officers or security guards will you need to surround an airport to make sure that a drone does not come within five miles of the perimeter? How will you protect a grade school or amusement park from a drone attack? Who will be able to take down a drone flying over the Super Bowl or World Cup before it causes its terror?
       Here is the solution. From this day forward only a handful of government agencies can possess a drone. The following are these agencies: the military, the border patrol, SWAT teams of police departments and firefighting associations.
       It should be illegal to manufacture, buy, sell, possess, own or fly a drone. No exceptions. If you currently own a drone you will have one year to turn it in to law enforcement. All commercial drone companies will close their doors and cease operations. Just like if you are caught with an illegal firearm that has been banned, so too with drones. Some see these flying computers as an innocent camera with wings. This is a very naive statement. A drone is a potential weapon and without swift restrictions the drone movement will begin to spiral out of control. Airspace is meant to be public and not overrun by corporations, emboldened teenagers and gamers who wish to step outside and get a whiff of nature.
       Yes, the genie can be put back in the bottle but it has to happen now. We do not want compromises, negotiations or more education for drone owners. We do not want a trial period where we see how it goes. How would you like it if it were your family member who died in a plane crash that occurred because a drone had drifted into restricted airspace around an airport? We have lived our entire lives without drones and we will continue to go on living if they are banned. The time is right to just say "No" to drones.
 
Resources
Bloomber Business.com
Drones and Airports
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-08-12/drone-plane-safety-incidents-seen-quadrupling-in-u-s-faa-says
Los Angeles Times
30,000 drones in sky in 20 years
http://www.latimes.com/local/politics/la-me-pol-drones-paparazzi-20140817-story.html