(Source: New Zealand Herald)
Rogue drone operators are rapidly becoming a nuisance in the United States, invading sensitive airspace and private property, with the regulators of the nation’s skies largely powerless to stop them.
In recent days, drones have smuggled drugs into an Ohio prison, smashed against a Cincinnati skyscraper, impeded efforts to fight bushfires in California and nearly collided with three airliners over New York City.
Earlier in the northern summer, a runaway two-pound drone struck a woman at a gay pride parade in Seattle, knocking her unconscious. In Albuquerque, a drone buzzed into a crowd at an outdoor festival, injuring a bystander. In Tampa, a drone reportedly stalked a woman outside a downtown bar before crashing into her car.
The incidents are the byproduct of the latest consumer craze: cheap, easy-to-fly, remotely piloted aircraft. Even basic models can soar hundreds of metres high and come equipped with powerful video cameras – capabilities that would have been hard to foresee just a few years ago.
Reports began surfacing last year of runaway drones interfering with air traffic and crashing into buildings. But the problem has grown worse as drone sales have surged.
“I’m definitely getting much more concerned about it,” Federal Aviation Administration head Michael Huerta said. The FAA was particularly worried about a surge in reports of drones flying dangerously close to airports. The latest incident came on Monday, when four airline crews reported a brush with a drone on a flight path into Newark International Airport.
Huerta added that the recent interference by drones with California firefighters was “really a wake-up call for a lot of people. This kind of thing has got to stop”.
Most new drone models are aimed at novice fliers who are often “blissfully unaware” of aviation safety practices, said Michael Braasch, an electrical engineering professor and drone expert at Ohio University.
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