Beware the Eye in the Sky

Have you every been relaxing in your back yard, enjoying a picnic at the park, or waiting for some waves in the line up when all the sudden you hear a buzzing above your head only to look up and see a floating camera and a blinking red light? With the advancements in technology and efficiency, Drones are becoming cheaper, easier to use, and more abundant than ever. Drones are so versatile and offer many useful and fun abilities to the user, these little machines truly seem to be ahead of their time.

The popularity of drones in society is becoming more and more numerous. This is because of the expansion beyond its traditional use of bringing your camera into the sky to get aerial footage that was previously unobtainable without a helicopter. But with the increasing power and range on these devices people have expanded the use and even started using them to transport other items. On the forefront of this is Amazon who has been developing a way to fully automate their delivery system by utilizing drones to deliver their products directly to customers. With less employees involved shipping cost could go down saving us money and increasing their profits. In China on the other hand, they are utilizing the ability to have moving cameras that can observer a large space to stop students from cheating. During the “gaokao”, which is similar to the SAT in determining college acceptance for many students in China, test proctors now fly drones mounted with cameras over the students so that they can have a better view and prevent cheating. It’s no doubt that drones can do some great stuff, but what happens when this technology gets into the wrong hands and how can we stop that. This is where the problem lies. Drone technology is advancing too fast for regulation to keep up. Recently a Connecticut teen was even able to mount an operable pistol on his drone. ATF was notified, but because there are no laws regarding this on the book yet, therefore they cannot do anything about this flying usable gun. Drones have advanced at an insane rate and have become a beneficial part of society with schools even considering offering degrees based on the development of these machines, but we, as citizens, need to push for legislative reform towards regulation and registration of these drones to maintain safety and keep control of our skies here in the US.

It’s necessary to push for reform of current laws, implement registration measures, and develop new laws to meet the expanding abilities of drones to keep our privacy secure and our airways safe. A recent article about the release of the new extremely user friendly consumer drone, the Phantom III, brought up the concern of privacy at home. This hit close to home because I have personally dealt with this multiple occasions. Most recently, while visiting my parents in California last Christmas, we were eating a lovely meal with our family on the deck when a strange buzzing noise started to bother us. When we looked up we see a blinking red light on the bottom of a Phantom II drone staring down at us and watching us eat. Although there are laws on the books to prevent flying low over another person’s property, the law is rarely enforced and many novice pilots have no idea or concern for that. Additionally if drones in public airways were required to be registered, enforcing this might become less of a challenge because we could identify the drone and make the connection to the pilot needed for police to make a warning or issue a citation. Breaches of privacy like this can be detrimental in so many ways. With a camera unwanted video can be taken of you or your family through windows in your home and because they are constantly becoming smaller and quieter, you may never know. With microphones attached and zooming abilities, important business meetings and strategies can be picked up on while the camera is being used by to take pictures sensitive information or trade secrets. But another lack of regard for airspace by drone pilots is becoming a dangerous trend across the country. Although illegal, many people have been flying drones extremely closed to airports. Recently at JFK airport, a drone came within 25 feet of a landing jet that seats 100 people. These lives are put at risk every time that happens, and eventually a plane full of people could go down. The rules of our airways in regards to drones need to be enforced to prevent the tragedy that is inevitable if people continue to fly with such disregard. If the laws in place to maintain safe flying of drones are not enforced or imposed upon consumers and drones are not required to be registered to fly in public airways, privacy and safety of our country will be compromised.

The other major concern that supports the need for further regulation and control of drones is their ability to lift and transport other items. With a 19-year-old college sophomore being able to mount a fully functional pistol on a drone, the amount of damage that could be done by an evil-minded person with a mechanical engineering degree is insane, and he wouldn’t even have to leave his couch. A killer could fly this around anonymously and kill at random without having to be face to face with the victims or even risk getting caught. He could stay in a safe place and view through glasses or a TV the signal from the camera it would be almost like a video game with a gun floating around that they control and can point and kill whomever they like. If one of the theater killers of the past years had used this they could have easily done it off the radar and never been caught. Or even worse they could simply strap explosives to the drone and fly it into the theatre causing even worse damage and more deaths while the remain at a safe location never giving away a hint of their identity. Registration for drones as well as laws restricting the combining of these drones with weapons would help to prevent such a tragedy though. On top of using drones with guns, there has been an effort by drug smugglers to take advantage of this technology. A few months ago a drone carrying mass amounts of meth crashed in Mexico on its way over the boarder. And just a couple weeks ago, one was used to drop marijuana, heroine, and tobacco in a prison yard resulted in a huge prison fight. The drugs and drone were not even discovered until the guards were watching the security tape to see what caused the brawl. By training law enforcement to be aware of drones and imposing stricter regulation, the criminal use of drones can be controlled and stopped before it expands into its own sector of the black market.

Although the evidence shows drone regulation would help insure safety and privacy, opponents are against the stripping of freedoms and say it “really kills that enthusiasm for the love of flying.” Earlier this year the FAA proposed new laws and regulations, but many say the restrictions are too tight and would put a damper on business. Laws such as maintaining line of sight, restrictions on height and speed of flight, and registration of the aircraft have been proposed. But many have found flaws in these laws. “For example, if a drone has to be within line of sight, this rules out Amazon’s plans for a network of drones that fly for miles to deliver packages, or an agriculture drone that monitor acres of farmland. And if a drone can’t fly higher than 500 feet, that does away with real estate drones that help contractors survey the hard-to-access exterior of sky scrapers.” I believe there is a reasonable solution of this that lies within the registration of the drone. Drones registered to a business and registered for the task associated with this business could be given specific rights. It is only reasonable that if I need to register a bike, a car, a gun or even my right to vote, that we should have to register our drones. Just as a fire truck can park at red curb and a trash truck can stop and go at every house, certain drones should have added rights and responsibilities to meet their business needs. By registering drones we could tell them apart more easily and users would be informed of laws and restrictions in order to receive registration. License plates and color coating them could give law enforcement a way to tell them apart and keep control over who flies where and when. A universal regulation system may not work, but regulation is necessary to some degree and the separation of consumer and business application drones could solve the major problem with making modern drone laws.

Drones are an inevitable part of modern society with seemingly limitless amounts of benefits to bring us, but without regulation and enforcement of laws, these amazing devices could end up doing seemingly limitless amounts of damage instead. With drone sales doubling the past three years, its safe to say the industry is here to stay and the number of drones in our skies will continue to increase. That being said, I want to be able to relax in my back yard without the threat of a neighbor or peeping tom watching me through the go pro on his drone or even worse shooting me with the gun mounted to it. I don’t think the risk of taking down a plane is worth getting some cool footage because our airways should not be a free for all and need rules and regulation. By us as citizens using our power to vote and influence politics, we can development laws and required registration for drones to ensure and maintain the safety and privacy of the American people.

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2 Comments to “Beware the Eye in the Sky”

  1. This article was very interesting to read. I had read about drones, and I had seen a few at the beach, but I had no idea that they had the capacity to do some of the things that you have mentioned in your article. Also, being able to mount a fully functioning pistol on a drone is extremely scary and dangerous. I believe that there should be some type of laws put into effect immediately to prevent people from doing hazardous things like this. I was surprised to read that nothing could be done about the 19 year old and his pistol carrying drone, especially when that is a true hazard and an accident or crime just waiting to happen. Why in the world would a 19 year old do this? It seems as if he has plans to shoot someone or something with it. This reminds me somewhat of the teens that were shooting people driving on the highway, just for fun, due to a popular shooting game. I forgot what it was called, but this could introduce much trouble and preventable deaths if laws are not put into place. However, even if there were laws put into place, a psychotic killer would not abide by them.

    I am also concerned about privacy issues as well. People should have the right to their own privacy in their own homes. I read an article about a father shooting a neighbor’s drone, because it was hovering over his swimming pool where his daughter was sunbathing, and he went to jail for criminal mischief and wanton endangerment. This is astonishing to me, because that was an invasion of his family’s privacy, and the drone flew above their private property. However, I do agree that it was very dangerous for him to shoot right above his home, because I’ve read many news stories about guns being fired into the air and coming back down in full force, killing people. I just hope that they create laws that will ensure everyone’s privacy in their homes, and to ensure the safety of others as well. I was also wondering what would happen if this became really popular, and people were flying their drones everywhere. The drones could accidentally hit each other or even a plane, and possibly a huge injury when they crash to the ground. Although there are dangers, I do agree that this is a cool technology that is affordable, and I know that many people would love to fly one of these things, but I don’t believe that everyone should be allowed to fly one, because of the dangers.

  2. I too thought this article was very interesting. Drones can be a very useful tool for us and in the future, but there are many downsides to these machines. For one, the main aspect that falls into caution is privacy. I think it’s a little over the top to spy on children while they take their tests. What’s wrong with having more instructors overlook testing. Also, the use in classroom could lead to even more usage which eliminates privacy. “South Park” had an excellent episode where they covered drones and how people would abuse them to spy on others. This then lead to government drones to spy on the citizens’ drones. While this is a little out of hand, it makes a great point that drone could be over used to the point of ridiculousness.

    It can help be thought that hacking can be a huge part in drones. It has been shown that a car can be hacked to the point of controlling the car, so what makes it different with drones? With someone else controlling the drone, they can abuse the machine for whatever they would like good or bad.

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