(Source: Washington Post)
The Federal Aviation Administration recently released a report detailing more than 190 safety incidents involving drones and commercial aircraft. In response, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has vowed to push legislation that would crack down on the commercial use of drones, also called Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). India’s Directorate General for Civil Aviation has already banned all use of drones in the country — even for civilian purposes.
There are valid concerns that the proliferation of drones will endanger commercial flights and cause serious accidents. The U.S. military is rightfully worried that drones will be weaponized as killing machines and become autonomous flying IEDs (improvised explosive devices) that target a specific individual by means of facial recognition.
Banning commercial drone use will not solve these problems; it will just give us a false sense of comfort and kick the can further down the road.
About two years ago a Washington Post column argued that we need to prepare ourselves for the “drone age.” It isn’t just the United States that is developing drone capabilities; governments and DIYers all over the world are doing the same, particularly the Chinese. This isn’t all bad; there are many good uses for drone technologies.
To start with, there isn’t yet a clear consensus on what a drone is. Is it something that flies and is remote controlled? If that is the case, should the FAA also ban remote-controlled airplanes and helicopters that hobbyists have flown happily and relatively safely for many years? The drone encounter that Senator Feinstein cited in a Senate Commerce Committee hearing as a reason to regulate commercial drone flights was reportedly just a pink toy helicopter.
Then there is the practicability of enforcement. If the government should institute restrictions and penalties, who will enforce them? Will the police buy high-performance drones to shoot down illicit drones? Can we scramble the Air Force to blow a flock of $300 quadcopters out of the sky? Should we equip legions of young children with air rifles? Proposing laws without realistic hope of enforcement does nothing to solve the problems at hand.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com