As the drone industry gains altitude as an emerging technology, the inevitable question of how to handle “drones behaving badly” is being swatted around the arena of media punditry with both CNN and the BBC recently weighing in.
The “There Oughta Be a Law” Bandwagon is seductive and expected whenever a disruptive technology comes into play and drone dummies like the pilots who have invaded the White House (twice) and the Japanese Prime Minister’s office, not to mention the five drones that delayed and hampered California firefighters, add kindling to the media firestorm.
By the time the alarmist rhetoric is subtracted and the dust settles, few would argue that some common sense drone regulation is unnecessary. Some technological solutions include geo-fencing – using GPS tech to restrict drone flights over certain airspace. “This is a solution to reduce airport incursion incidents,” DJI European marketing director Kevin Gordon told the BBC. “It’s important that we don’t allow people to fly in places they shouldn’t,” he said, adding that the “next generation of drones will be easier and safer to fly, compensating for pilot error.”
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NASA is already testing sense-and-avoid technology as well as a new traffic collision-avoidance program which will initially validate trajectory, sensor, and other simulation models through the use of live data.
Writing for CNN, editorialist Ford Vox is calling a menu of regulatory options some may argue is overkill, including vehicle identification numbers for drones (something the FAA is already requiring for COA’s), as well as requiring licenses for pilots.
“We’re on track to endure every outrageous act the most irresponsible people among us can produce until a drone disaster of sufficient horror demands legislative action. By that time, like the gun problem, we may be too late,” Vox writes, perhaps a bit hyperbolically. Although not an aerospace expert (he is a physician), Vox prescribes a wide range of drone regulation ideas including accident insurance requirements for pilots, increased geo-fencing and stricter rules defining “personal airspace.”
Drone hobbyists commenting on Vox’s editorial begged to differ with many of his measures. One hobbyist wrote:
“We don’t need licensing so much as we need places for people to enjoy the hobby where they can learn to fly responsibly. Licensing is merely a method to stifle interest in a hobby. Next, no doubt, would be the imposition of a tax on them, an age restriction, and severe restrictions on when and where they could be flown. Some of that may prove necessary, particularly around airports, but for a hobby that is still in its infancy it’s an overreach to start trying to kill it through the over-imposition of limits on it.”
Jason is a longstanding contributor to DroneLife with an avid interest in all things tech. He focuses on anti-drone technologies and the public safety sector; police, fire, and search and rescue.
Beginning his career as a journalist in 1996, Jason has since written and edited thousands of engaging news articles, blog posts, press releases and online content.
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