Home / General / Ban Private Drones

Ban Private Drones

Comments
/
/
/
873 Views

dji_phantom_drone_public_header

Will it take a plane crash that kills 200 people to lead to a crackdown against privately owned drones? Or are drones the new gun, with their use “personal freedom” no matter what the cost?

At 8:51 a.m., a white drone startled the pilot of a JetBlue flight, appearing off its left wing moments before it landed at Los Angeles International Airport. Five hours later, a quadcopter whizzed underneath an Allegiant Air flight as it approached the same runway. Elsewhere in California, pilots of light aircraft reported narrowly dodging drones in San Jose and La Verne.

In Washington, a Cessna pilot reported a drone cruising at 1,500 feet in highly restricted airspace over the nation’s capital, forcing the U.S. military to scramble fighter jets as a precaution. In Louisville, a silver-and-white drone almost collided with a training aircraft. In Chicago, United Airlines Flight 970 reported seeing a drone pass by at an altitude of 3,500 feet.

All told, 12 episodes were recorded Sunday of small drones interfering with airplanes or coming too close to airports, including other incidents in New Mexico, Texas, Illinois, Florida and North Carolina, according to previously undisclosed reports filed with the Federal Aviation Administration.

Before last year, close encounters with rogue drones were unheard of. But as a result of a sales boom, small, largely unregulated remote-control aircraft are clogging U.S. airspace, snarling air traffic and giving the FAA fits.

That was Sunday. It’s only a matter of time, and not a very long amount of time, before these private drones lead to a real tragedy. They are too big of a public safety hazard for people to own as toys, hazards that will only become more extreme as the technology improves. And while you could say that they should just be banned from areas around airports, remember that aircraft flies a lot of places and these drones could take a down a fire fighting plane or a news helicopter easily.

And in case anyone wants to hear a scary story, when I flew back to Austin after defending my dissertation, my plane struck a flock of geese. It was just like the Hudson except no river to land in. We made an emergency landing in Albuquerque. A couple of birds killed an engine and put a hole in the wing. It doesn’t take much at those speeds to kill people.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest
  • Honoré De Ballsack

    The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a drone is a good guy with a drone.

  • Honoré De Ballsack

    And in case anyone wants to hear a scary story, when I flew back to Austin after defending my dissertation, my plane struck a flock of geese…We made an emergency landing in Albuquerque.

    That is terrifying. I had to spend an entire WEEK in Albuquerque once and barely survived the experience.

    • We who have lived in Albuquerque refer to Breaking Bad as a documentary.

      • Paul Campos

        Obligatory:

      • Honoré De Ballsack

        OT Full disclaimer: I actually lived in northern New Mexico for ten full years, and I personally found Breaking Bad‘s depiction of the place a bit sloppy…relying too much on the standard tropes of TV drama. (Millions of other BB fans don’t seem to mind–so maybe it’s just me.)

        Edit: Neil Young’s “Albuquerque” (thoughtfully linked above) somehow PERFECTLY catches the tone and spirit of the town, though.

        • There wasn’t enough brown people in the show, I will say that.

          And yes on the Neil Young song.

    • Mike Lommler

      A visit to La Cumbre Brewing helps with this.

  • celticdragonchick

    Privately owned RC aircraft have been a fact for decades. The best you will do with drones is to get them banned from certain high use airspace areas.

    • Gwen

      In or around airports maybe.

      Needless to say, I disagree with Erik about this.

      I am also an occasional model rocketeer and think drones are kinda cool, although I don’t own one.

      Treat this like laser pointers — crack down on people who interfere with aviation, but don’t outright ban them.

      • All I’m hearing here though is that you like shooting things into the air. I’m not hearing any good policy reasons for maintaining their legality. Even if you ban them around airports, there’s been multiple incidents of fire fighting planes having to pull back because of drones in the area. So it’s not just about areas around airports.

        • Gwen

          This is America, Erik, I don’t a good policy reason to do what I want so long as it’s not hurting other people.

          • How many people have to die for this to become a policy issue?

            • celticdragonchick

              Shall we ban sharp knives? How people have to die for thin sliced tomatoes?

              • Is this the 10-year old level of argument by ridiculous and irrelevant comparison rhetorical strategy?

                • celticdragonchick

                  You understand I am mocking your argument based on exactly that criteria? It is fundamentally ridiculous on its face.

                • Did you not read the article? Those near misses are going to eventually become crashes. That’s the public policy justification.

                • Gwen

                  I agree with you that we should ban them near airports, and I’ll agree if they’re interfering with firefighting or anything else. I think in that case it’s already illegal anyway.

                  If someone is zipping around with a drone at the park, which as far as I know is totally legal in Austin, and respecting all the FAA rules, I don’t see why this is a problem.

                  Also: if we ban drones, then we’ll have to start banning chemistry sets, and lasers, and high-powered potato cannons, and soon the Chinese will surpass us in mad scientists and supervillains.

                • celticdragonchick

                  Ergo you enforce existing laws or adopt the FAA proposal that owners of certain classes of drones have to get a PPL to operate them.

                  This isn’t that hard, Eric.

                • Gwen

                  Also, have you seen a drone? They’re like, 90 percent styrofoam, with the balance being wire and thin plastic.

                  I am fairly certain it is roughly comparable to a small bird in terms of impact damage. I assume you’re not in favor of banning small birds.

                  It would have to be an incredibly (un)lucky shot for a drone to destroy an aircraft.

                • celticdragonchick

                  Some of the really large professional models could be a serious issue with engine ingestion. I believe that is what the concern here for the most part.

                  There are numerous things that can be done wrt ameliorating safety concerns short of attempting an outright ban (which is likely near impossible) including software that caps the maximum ceiling of the drone as well as the FAA proposal that larger models require a license.

                • JonH

                  “Also, have you seen a drone? They’re like, 90 percent styrofoam, with the balance being wire and thin plastic.”

                  Have *you* seen a drone? They’re made of carbon fiber and aluminum.

                  Certainly Amazon.com is selling lots of drone parts and kits made of carbon fiber and aluminum. And they aren’t even prohibitively expensive.

                • trollhattan

                  The current weight limit is evidently 55 pounds, which sounds about fifty-two pounds more than I want my neighbor jockeying around the ‘hood.

                • Barry Freed

                  Actually the batteries they depend on for power makes them pretty hefty and the ones I’ve handled* are pretty damn solid. I’d much rather be in an aircraft that got hit by a bird than a drone.

                  *Out in the middle of the desert with no other aircraft around for many miles. I don’t think they should be banned out right but I’m largely with Erik on this, unless there could be serious enforcement and penalties, say 6 months in jail and a $20,000 fine on first offense.

              • efgoldman

                How people have to die for thin sliced tomatoes?

                Or public geese! Ban public geese!

            • Lee Rudolph

              Depends. What color are these people?

              (For fire crews who end up incinerated, specify original color.)

            • Thirtyish

              I wish death count actually had any kind of effect on policy, but Gwen is right on one thing here: this is America. How many gun deaths have failed to result in policy changes?

              • somethingblue

                But guns are protected by the Second Amendment. Clearly the solution is for all drones to be armed.

                • Snarki, child of Loki

                  “Clearly the solution is for all drones to be armed.”

                  Would tentacles count? Asking for a friend.

                • Linnaeus

                  Already being done:

                  Austin Haughwout, an 18-year-old college sophomore, successfully built what is thought to be among the first armed civilian drones, and filmed the device flying on his family’s property.

                  The armed drone was a wake-up call for law enforcement, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Despite their strong public safety concerns, the agency told “CBS This Morning” there appears to be nothing illegal about it, and they admit they have no way to prevent the next one.

                  The lightweight drone features a mounted semi-automatic handgun and is just over two feet long.

                  The video shows the gun being fired four times, and the drone is able to recover from the firearm’s recoil to remain in flight.

                  I’ve seen other videos of people demonstrating drones with weapons they’ve mounted on them. It’s out there.

            • ajay

              How many people have to die for this to become a policy issue?

              More than zero?

              Anyway, it’s already a policy issue. This debate is already happening. It just isn’t a screaming hysteria issue yet.

        • celticdragonchick

          I’m not hearing any good policy reasons for maintaining their legality.

          Because there is no need to justify it on that side. I don’t have to prove any need to any person why I might like to fly an RC aircraft or drone(although I do not). The onus is on you to justify some sort of compelling need in denying liberty.

          That’s the nice thing about freedom: I don’t have to keep getting permission from people to engage in fairly innocent hobbies. As far as keeping drones away from actual airplanes…the laws regarding that sort of thing have been on the books for as long as RC aircraft have been flying.

          • And therefore, there is no reason to ban semiautomatic weapons on the street.

            • celticdragonchick

              You were saying something about irrelevant comparisons??!

            • Amanda in the South Bay

              Semi automatic? You mean then the overwhelming majority of guns?

              • Chuchundra

                Forget it, he’s rolling.

        • Well, unlike guns, model rockets, drones, and RC aircraft are pretty easy to build yourself (and rapidly getting insanely easy to manufacture) and kill far fewer people (thus far, if at all). Plus, they are super fun for a lot of people.

          Plus, they are used in journalism and I could well imagine them being very useful in protests or police monitoring.

          So, a ban is simply unlikely to be passed nor is it likely to work and would required a fairly invasive confiscation program. And there are some reasonable, even laudable, uses.

          That all being said, it is clearly a huge problem that they are almost entirely unregulated at the moment. Small toys (e.g., 15-30 minute battery life, can’t fly even as high as a good kite, etc) can probably be left fairly unregulated except for flying near airports. But anything that can really fly should have a transponder and (I’d say) emergency override.

          • GFW

            This being the first comment I’ve seen that mentioned transponders, I’d like to heartily endorse it, and also the concept of an unregulated toy class vs a “pro” class. Make the toys have to be under a certain weight and essentially fragile, so if they did run into a real airplane it would be about what happens when a sparrow does. The non-toys should have transponders that can be traced to their owners, any incursion into restricted airspace should result in a fine, etc. I’m not sure about the emergency override – too likely to be hackable, but maybe there should be a way (via the transponder) to relay a legal directive to the pilot, e.g. “Decend to 75′ and heading 270, now!”

            • JonH

              I don’t think there’s any way to make an electric motor be as fragile as a sparrow. There’s going to be some hard metal, coiled wire, and magnets in there, and a drone will have 4 or more of them.

              You can use light/soft/resilient materials for most of the rest, but there’s still going to be a few hard nuggets in there. They might not do much to a plane’s windshield, but could probably make a mess of a jet engine.

              • Julia Grey

                They might not do much to a plane’s windshield, but could probably make a mess of a jet engine.

                Absolutely. An ingested bottle cap can damage a jet engine. The front end (compression stage) is essentially a finely balanced barrel of turbine blades rotating at extremely high speeds. Hit a single blade with something from the outside, and the resulting chain reaction could rumble the whole set off the shaft. This is also known as “Foreign Object Damage (FOD),” an eternal bugaboo of airfields everywhere.

                I know nothing about aircraft windshields, however. That’s airframe. Not my AFSC.

          • Orphos

            It’s true – there’s almost no chance that anyone would want to ban the materials to build them, which is a moderately popular hobby as well.

          • Gregor Sansa

            My father in law uses drones to monitor lawbreaking and environmental damage by gold mines in Guatemala. Or would you rather that stuff stayed Out Of Sight?

      • djw

        There were lots of reports of drones following/harassing people in Seattle parks this summer. It’s illegal, but the SPD was pretty clear about not having the resources or werewithal to do anything about it. It seems to me another part of the calculus on drones, beyond their threat to aviation safety, is their threat to privacy.

        • You have little expectation of privacy in a public park.

          • Yes, following people could be (and typically would be) a harassment problem but I don’t think it’s a privacy problem per se.

          • djw

            It’s obnoxious and intrusive and illegal. And, of course, it’s very difficult to stop drones from intruding on private spaces. (In a few minutes on youtube, I’ve learned that drone videos of topless sunbathers is a thing.) A world in which drone use is relatively widespread is clearly a net negative for privacy.

            • Juicy_Joel

              Don’t forget about lady that got knocked unconscious by a two pound drone at the Seattle pride parade in June. Good thing her boyfriend caught her as she fell or the consequences could have been a lot worse.

              Constantly having to fear getting brained whenever you step outside is a small price to pay for mah libertiez though so…

          • Juicy_Joel

            Do you have an expectation of privacy sleeping in your own fucking house with the shades drawn? Not if drones are involved!

            “Drone hovers outside Hawaii Kai woman’s bedroom, but no crime was committed”

            http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/29765309/drone-hovers-outside-hawaii-kai-womans-bedroom-but-no-crime-was-committed

            • That’s pretty clearly a privacy as well as harassment problem.

        • JonH

          IMHO flying drones around people should not be allowed without some formal licensing.

          Unfortunately part of the problem with drones is that you can’t easily tell who’s operating the thing. Maybe drone control pads should be required to have bright flashing lights and a radio transmitter broadcasting the operator’s GPS coordinates.

      • efgoldman

        In or around airports maybe.

        The new retail drone store in the Providence area is…..
        Wait for it…..
        Yup. Right next to PVD (TFGreene) airport.

        • Hogan

          Want to take this baby out for a test drive?

          • efgoldman

            Want to take this baby out for a test drive?

            They (the retailer) claims to allow test flights only inside the shop.

    • Honoré De Ballsack

      Privately owned RC aircraft

      Aha! I knew the Vatican was behind this!

    • Hob

      If I’m reading this correctly, quadcopters etc. would be covered by existing regulations on RC aircraft, which already say that you can’t fly within 5 miles of an airport and must remain “well clear of” any manned aircraft operations whether you’re near an airport or not. I would imagine that enforcement might be more difficult for video-equipped drones that can be flown without a direct line of sight, just because it’s harder to tell who is flying it, but it doesn’t seem to be true that it is “largely unregulated”.

      • JonH

        The thing is you can easily get a drone and start operating it without knowing thing one about those regulations.

        I think there’s more of a culture of responsibility with regular RC aircraft, where you actually need to learn how to fly. Drone culture is a solipsistic electronic toy culture, not a flight culture that respects the need for rules.

        I think someone is going to put in a lot of hours learning to fly before risking $1000 on a high-end RC plane, but drones fly themselves, so there’s less risk if someone wants to buy a fancy one.

        • Hob

          I understand that. I was responding to celticdragonchick’s comment that “the best you will do with drones is to get them banned from certain high use airspace areas.” Again, I may be reading the FAA rules incorrectly, but it seems to me that they’re already banned in such areas (or at least “not allowed without explicit permission”, which presumably no one is getting) but that the ban is hard to enforce.

          It looks like celticdragonchick has now moved on from that comment and is saying “enforce existing laws” instead, so my comment may be redundant now (although I’m still not sure how that enforcement is supposed to work— given the range of these things it seems pretty hard to do).

          • celticdragonchick

            I do think that drones are covered under current laws and FAA/NTSB regulations insofar as use around airports etc . Additional regs may be needed wrt to use around areas where firefighting aircraft or law enforcement aircraft are operating in an emergency.

            • sparks

              Or medical transport in and around a hospital helipad, which are de facto emergency calls.

          • JonH

            I think one drone manufacturer actually has their drones programmed to not operate within the flight restriction zone around Washington DC, based on GPS.

            Something like that would help with airports, if they had restriction zones programmed in for all airports. That wouldn’t help with things like fires or other temporary flight restrictions, and I can’t see drone manufacturers putting in a radio system to receive broadcast TFRs.

            Of course, this also wouldn’t help with DIY-built drones.

    • JonH

      RC aircraft are different. You have to give a shit, and put in time to learn to fly, and there’s a culture that respects rules.

      Any idiot can operate a drone, because the drone’s electronics do the work of flying. There’s less of a community or culture with drones, because any fool can buy one and have it running without learning anything.

      • Lee Rudolph

        because any fool can buy one

        and, by all accounts, many do!

        • JonH

          Drones really seem to be asshole magnets.

    • The Temporary Name

      Privately owned RC aircraft have been a fact for decades.

      Those, however, haven’t been as controllable or endowed with eyes. Modern drones are way more cool and will acquire way more users than just odd folks who like to crane their necks.

  • Barry Freed

    Did you see all the stories about how firefighting tanker aircraft had to be grounded several times while fighting wildfires because of people flying drones in the area?

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/07/31/if-you-fly-we-cant-pleads-california-firefighter-as-drones-impede-spreading-wildfire-battle/

    • advocatethis

      When I heard about the Rocky and Jerusalem fires in Lake County I thought that filming those would be a cool use for a drone. That thought was followed immediately by the thought that that would be incredibly dangerous for the airborne firefighters.

      I feel bad enough that my second thought wasn’t my first. How do so many people not have that second thought at all?

      • Hob

        Based on arguments I’ve seen online, it’s not just that some people don’t have that second thought, they will also argue vehemently that there’s nothing to be worried about at all (*) and that anyone who thinks this is unsafe is just part of a conspiracy to take everyone’s drones away.

        (* I can’t remember all the rationales I’ve seen for this, but one was “news copters are allowed to film fires, and the firefighters don’t crash into them, so there must not be any danger from having something even closer to the firefighters that is incredibly hard to see”)

        • JonH

          (* I can’t remember all the rationales I’ve seen for this, but one was “news copters are allowed to film fires, and the firefighters don’t crash into them, so there must not be any danger from having something even closer to the firefighters that is incredibly hard to see”)

          Also, of course, the news helicopter pilot has a radio, so can monitor things and can be reached by other pilots, whereas most drone operators won’t. So the firefighting pilots simply have to trust someone who has already shown themselves to be a reckless douchebag.

    • tsam

      Yes–and saw an interview with a visibly shaken helicopter pilot who had a near miss with one of those fucking things.

      Drones are just like snowmobiles, dirt bikes and ATVs. Obnoxious, irritating pieces of shit, owned and operated by obnoxious, irritating pieces of shit. (?Generally speaking of course #notallrednecks)

      • Chuchundra

        There are people out there who annoy me and who like things that I don’t like, so let’s ban those things because I don’t see why we shouldn’t.

        • tsam

          What in Davy Jones’ locker did ye just bark at me, ye scurvy bilgerat? I’ll have ye know I be the meanest cutthroat on the seven seas, and I’ve led numerous raids on fishing villages, and raped over 300 wenches. I be trained in hit-and-run pillaging and be the deadliest with a pistol of all the captains on the high seas. Ye be nothing to me but another source o’ swag. I’ll have yer guts for garters and keel haul ye like never been done before, hear me true. You think ye can hide behind your newfangled computing device? Think twice on that, scallywag. As we parley I be contacting my secret network o’ pirates across the sea and yer port is being tracked right now so ye better prepare for the typhoon, weevil. The kind o’ monsoon that’ll wipe ye off the map. You’re sharkbait, fool. I can sail anywhere, in any waters, and can kill ye in o’er seven hundred ways, and that be just with me hook and fist. Not only do I be top o’ the line with a cutlass, but I have an entire pirate fleet at my beck and call and I’ll damned sure use it all to wipe yer arse off o’ the world, ye dog. If only ye had had the foresight to know what devilish wrath your jibe was about to incur, ye might have belayed the comment. But ye couldn’t, ye didn’t, and now ye’ll pay the ultimate toll, you buffoon. I’ll shit fury all over ye and ye’ll drown in the depths o’ it. You’re fish food now.

          • rea

            Mr. Krabs, is that you? I like your patties . . .

          • nixnutz

            What the fuck is that supposed to be? You’re tedious at the best of times–Bobby Jindal has a better chance of winning the presidency, Top Chef, and a Tony for his portrayal of Aileen Wuornos than you do of ever making a funny post–but even by those pathetic standards that shitsmear is embarrassing.

            • Halloween Jack

              Unclutch the pearls, please; it’s a riff on a well-known meme.

  • Unemployed_Northeastern

    Wait, those little private drones can get 3500 feet up? Holy moly!

    Obligatory links to Youtube videos of hawks and eagles taking out drones:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhDG_WBIQgc

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UU8sJ8aeyC4

    I can watch those all day long. “You die now!” said the eagles.

    • guthrie

      At lat a use for falconers using bird of prey with specially armoured legs.

      • Barry Freed

        They actually use them for falconry here (i.e. the GCC country I’m living in). That’s how I’ve come to have what little experience I do using drones. They have specially made targets you can dangle from the quadrocopter and train the falcon to strike. It’s pretty awesome.

    • tsam

      Drones–the new clay pigeons.

  • JonH

    “A couple of birds killed an engine and put a hole in the wing. It doesn’t take much at those speeds to kill people.”

    And birds aren’t made of aluminum, steel, neodymium magnets, and carbon fiber.

    • Lee Rudolph

      And birds aren’t made of aluminum, steel, neodymium magnets, and carbon fiber.

      Yet.

      That you know of.

      (Making functional robotic non-flightless birds is, doubtless, a genuinely hard challenge. It also seems to me like just the kind of challenge that plenty of people I know, and/or know of, would enjoy taking on. Also too, DARPA.)

    • wengler

      Ban Birds!

    • andrew97

      I generally support Erik’s ban, but I’m going to geek out for a minute:

      I think it’s extremely unlikely that a single drone could take down a jet airliner. A strike on an engine wouldn’t do it since jetliners are designed to fly long distances and land with a single engine.

      The Hudson Miracle example doesn’t apply since the aircraft struck a flock of large birds and hit several, at least one in each engine — drones don’t fly in flocks.

      Moreover, bird strikes lead to emergency landings about once a week around the world — but fatal accidents are extremely rare, the last one being three years ago in Nepal. Often the flight crew will only notice the bird strike after an uneventful flight and safe landing. (The most common source of injury on planes is severe turbulence, which most often injures cabin crew who can’t wear seatbelts while working.)

      For me, the worst case would be a direct hit on the windshield, though the windshields are designed with birds in mind. If the drone went through, it might kill the flight crew member behind it, but the airplane would probably land, as in this case when the windshield blew out.

      • Just because it’s not likely to bring down the plane, you still don’t want to lose an engine. Especially during a critical phase of flight like final approach.

        A large enough drone going through the engine might cause an “uncontained” failure where it starts throwing turbine blades through fuel tanks and/or hydraulic lines. No thanks.

        We’re talking about a piece of metal here, not soft tissue like a bird.

        • andrew97

          I agree, and you are probably the expert. But I don’t want to overstate the danger, and then have people get complacent when an airplane lands safely after striking a drone.

      • Lee Rudolph

        drones don’t fly in flocks.

        Yet.

        To revert again to roboticist gossip (now a few years out of date), there is a lot of (theoretical) interest in “swarms” of semi-autonomous robots (I assume there is probably practical interest too, but I ran/run in theoretical circles with only occasional incursions of practicality, and that mostly at small scales). If swarms, why not flocks? Eh? EH?

        • Humpty-Dumpty

          I believe Cory Doctorow used that as a plot point in his Little Brother novel – the drones were used to create a mesh network to defeat phone jamming by the cops during demonstrations, and to provide aerial imagery of police maneuvers so demonstrators could avoid kettling and baton charges.

          • The Temporary Name

            Flocking drones were in Lem novels quite a while ago.

        • Princeton’ quad lab had flocking quads years ago. Lots of neat behaviours and it’s easy to see how it’d be useful. It’d be straightforward to program a flock to do photography, stunts, arial displays, etc.

          • Lee Rudolph

            Princeton’ quad lab had flocking quads years ago.

            Given that when I was there (many, MANY “years ago”) the home of Princeton’s engineering activities was the Engineering Quad so called, that sentence took me a bit of extra parsing.

            • Oops! It seems like it was Hungarians that did the big flocking result.

              Ah! Here’s the Princeton video I was remembering (circa 2012). Formation’s start around 30 sec in.

              • Lee Rudolph

                the big flocking result

                Isn’t that Joe Biden’s line?

  • Warren Terra

    I saw a news story someplace today about how someone was annoyed at a camera drone buzzing his party while he was entertaining guests; he threw a T-shirt at the drone, crashing it – and was jailed overnight on charges of vandalism.

    I don’t think we should ban them, I think they have a lot of valid applications both as toys and in useful roles. I am not even sure we should restrict licenses for their overly much. But if you’re overflying someone’s property to the point of annoyance, within the range of a hurled T-shirt, surely you are the offender, not the fellow who tosses some apparel over their own lawn? And obviously anyone who’d imperil anyone with a drone, risking a startle or a “birdstrike” with an aircraft or just buzzing a bicyclist, is a menace to society and should be treated appropriately. Some sort of sensible rules and perhaps regulation seem to be in order.

    • I was at a wedding in March where someone flew a drone right over the top of it and kept it there until someone shooed him away.

      • Lee Rudolph

        Why should Afghani wedding parties have all the fun?

      • Finally, a use for my hard-won expertise with a slingshot.

        • You train for killing Goliath, ending up shooting down drones.

          • I trained for hitting the fourth-floor windows on my elementary school.

            Goliath. Yes…

            • rea

              Can you use a shotgun on the drone hovering over your backyard, filming your swimsuit-clad teenage daughter? Evidently, no.

              • Warren Terra

                One even dropped 65.4 grams of marijuana, 6.6 grams of heroin, and 144.5 grams of tobacco into a crowded prison yard.

                I’m not terribly clear on prison rules, thankfully, but that 144 g of tobacco seems a real waste of cargo capacity.

                • Humpty-Dumpty

                  Over the past decade or so, smoking has been banned at most prisons; tobacco has become highly-sought-after contraband.

      • WAs this someone a member of the wedding or a non-affiliated jerk?

    • somethingblue

      It’s here.

      I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that if you can bring down a drone by throwing your t-shirt at it, it’s too close.

      • Snarki, child of Loki

        So *that’s* why they have those t-shirt cannons at ballparks!

      • weirdnoise

        I’m also going to say that throwing a drone out of control by hitting it with something while it’s flying over a crowd isn’t exactly something we should legitimize…

    • witlesschum

      Seems to me that “you fly your drone over my property, I get to take whatever steps I might like” would be a sensible compromise.

  • LWA

    At the very least it seems like can take a few steps like treating drones the way we do automobiles:
    We can register them to an owner with markings;
    Require a license and train before operating;

    Won’t eliminate all abuses but would be an improvement.

    • JonH

      The markings would be hard to see unless it’s been shot down.

      Making it open season on drones would help. Eventually drone operators would learn to stay away from people, because otherwise their drone might get wrecked.

    • tsam

      We can regulate them like aircraft, since they are aircraft. There are places and altitudes you can take them to, and others you cannot.

    • Lost Left Coaster

      Bare minimum. I’m sympathetic to banning them for private civilian use (with commercial use permitted under stricter regulations), but bare minimum, you should have an operator’s license, a registration for the craft, and use of a transponder should be mandatory.

  • If anyone would like to contribute to funding for a drone to take down an L.A.P.D. ‘copter …

  • tsam

    First it was Google Glass, now drones. It’s a creeper’s paradise.

  • wengler

    These drones are still much better than those other drones.

  • Chuchundra

    It’s always fun when Erik pulls out his neo-luddite side. Ban drones! Ban non-stick pans! I don’t need these things so I don’t see why anyone should have them.

    I think he missed his true calling as a mid-level apparatchik in the USSR.

    • I am impressed by two things here. First is the idea of drone toys as “need.” Second is how defenders of drones basically sound like gun nuts. Where is the NRA for private drones!

      Also you clearly know nothing about the Luddites.

      • Chuchundra

        There are plenty of legitimate commercial uses for drones, so a lot of people do actually need them.

        Of course, nobody actually needs a toy. Ban them all I say. They’re just a waste of resources that could be better used furthering the aims of the state.

        • This is nearing troll banning levels. Are you actually Jennie?

          • Chuchundra

            Why, because I disagree with you? Because I’m making my point a little more strongly than you’d like?

            You’re position is stupid and I’m pointing out how stupid it is. Sorry if that bothers you.

            • tsam

              Your point is that Erik is a commie? That’s well thought out, you stupid asshole.

        • efgoldman

          Of course, nobody actually needs a toy. Ban them all I say.

          In mt day, we didn’t have any “toys.” We played with sticks, lumps of dirt, scrap wood, and rocks, and that’s the way it was, and we liked it.

          Erik, i dunno’ if you’re having a bad week or not, but your snarkasm detector is broken.

          • Breadbaker

            You had dirt?

      • Warren Terra

        Also you clearly know nothing about the Luddites.

        This. I am heartily sick of people confusing the Luddite movement to achieve compensation for workers displaced by technology with knee-jerk opposition to new things.

        • Malaclypse

          Thirded.

        • keta

          I hear ya’, but it is correct usage.

          • Warren Terra

            Sure, for values of “correct usage” that include perpetuating smears intended to demonize and misrepresent a movement that had at its core a valid point.

            The same dictionary, by the way, cheerfully offers a definition for “gyp” without any notes as to its origins or arguments against its usage. Indeed, it claims the origin is unknown, which is just silly.

            • Malaclypse

              Indeed, it claims the origin is unknown, which is just silly.

              That’s some JenBob levels of willful stupidity, that is.

              Because I was so gobsmacked, I checked on welshing. Yep, no reason at all why the fucking English would know where that came from.

            • ajay

              Indeed, it claims the origin is unknown, which is just silly.

              The thing about amateurs on the internet claiming that they know the derivation of a word is, generally they’re wrong. Especially with words they’ve decided are offensive. (Remember the Internet Rage Outburst over “picnic”? Or “nitty-gritty”? Or “niggardly”?)
              Just as likely that it comes from the same root as gyp=pain.

        • ajay

          I am heartily sick of people confusing the Luddite movement to achieve compensation for workers displaced by technology with knee-jerk opposition to new things.

          The Luddites weren’t even complaining about new technology. The frames which they were breaking were stocking-frames for knitting hose – a 16th-century invention. They were complaining because a shift in fashion from breeches to long trousers had caused a drop in demand for stockings, and so there was huge production overcapacity and a consequent drop in price, which meant that hand-knitters could no longer compete with frame-knitters.

      • rea

        defenders of drones basically sound like gun nuts.

        Although, not infrequently (see article I linked above) it’s the gun nuts whop are geeked up to shoot them down.

  • dilan

    That last point, that it doesn’t take much at those speeds to kill people, is one of the reasons why all the stuff you hear from utopian futurists about space travel is almost certainly impossible.

  • randy khan

    I actually do some work in this area. Right now in the U.S. there are two categories of drones (which people in the business call UAVs because they like acronyms and don’t like the public to think about autonomous devices that shoot little missiles in Afghanistan):

    1. Commercial drones – These operate under FAA authorization (technically, exemptions from the normal airplane rules, but the exemptions usually come with something like 25 or 30 specific requirements for operation, so it looks like a license). Among many other things, the FAA permits operation only within line of sight of the person piloting the drone, at least 5 miles from an airport, at least 500 feet from non-participating people and structures (with some exceptions for film sets) and no more than 400 feet above ground level, and also requires some kind of pilot’s license for the drone operator. Authorized commercial operators are pretty careful to follow the requirements of their exemptions because they can be fined or shut down, and they’re trying to make money. Right now there are somewhere north of 1,000 exemptions, and the FAA probably is granting 100-200 a month, although some of them are just amendments to existing exemptions to allow different aircraft or to add on new uses for the drones.

    2. Non-commercial drones – These basically have no rules, and there are a lot more of them. Technically, they’re subject to the airport and height restrictions that also apply to commercial drones, but since you don’t need any permission to operate them, it’s hard for the FAA to enforce those rules. Drone manufacturers also are putting in geo-fencing software to prevent them from, for instance, flying over the White House or near airports, but it’s not like you can’t find ways to override it if you want. Since you can just walk into Best Buy and get one of these things, almost nobody who buys one has any idea what the rules are.

    So, basically, the relatively serious people have to go through an authorization process and use qualified pilots, and are subject to real oversight; the hobbyists don’t have to do anything and more or less have no oversight. In the days of RC planes, that probably was fine, but technology has overtaken regulation, and is creating real risks.

    The reality is that drones aren’t going away, so something probably has to be done about the hobbyist drones. The longer-term solution might be to classify drones according to how big they are, which is an approach the EU is considering. The risks are pretty closely related to size, and if you required real licensing above a certain size, that may be the best bet to minimize risk.

    Also, the U.S. is pretty far behind Europe in the drone licensing business, and that’s probably part of the problem.

    • Warren Terra

      Thanks for the information.

      Though, I really don’t see small size as a reason to escape sensible regulation that ensures protections for others’ personal space, their privacy and dignity, and immensely moreso their physical safety. I don’t care how large the drone hovering outside my window is, and I don’t greatly care how large the drone that buzzes past my face as I ride a bike is, nor how large the drone that gets sucked into a jet engine.

      • randy khan

        That brings to mind a few thoughts:

        1. Early on in the development of aviation, there was some question about whether planes could fly over people’s property without permission. (You know, technically you own everything from the middle of the earth to the top of the sky along the borders of your property.) That was addressed by changes in the law that ensured that overflights were allowed. You could tweak those laws to either (a) set a height limit below which it’s trespassing to be there without your permission; or (b) make them not apply to unlicensed drones, which would create a private zone around people’s homes.

        2. A drone owner who causes an accident is responsible for it, just like you would be if you threw a rock at a helicopter and took it down. (I don’t think this is a plausible scenario, but I think it is theoretically possible.) Obviously, Joe Hobbyist can’t pay the damages if a 757 goes down, but he can go to jail. Similarly, using a drone to harass people should be subject to appropriate punishment as well.

        3. Size-based regulation isn’t perfect by any means, but it’s a way of managing the risks. Smaller drones typically can’t go as high or as far as larger ones, and they do pose fewer risks to air traffic than larger ones. The EU is proposing, I believe, to impose the lowest level of regulation on drones weighing 1/2 kg or less, which is pretty small.

    • Just_Dropping_By

      The term “UAV” for “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle” long predates the use of armed drones (see https://books.google.com/books?id=F9Y4oZ9qZnYC&pg=PA326&dq=uav+1985&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CDAQ6AEwAGoVChMIuNPMnqa5xwIVgQ-SCh0_TQjN#v=onepage&q=uav%201985&f=false), so it’s rather misleading to suggest that the term is some sort of calculated euphemism.

      • randy khan

        All I’m saying is that the industry prefers “UAV” because “drone” has connotations they don’t like.

    • ajay

      don’t like the public to think about autonomous devices that shoot little missiles in Afghanistan

      There is no such thing as an autonomous armed drone. The only side using autonomous weapons in Afghanistan is the Taliban, and we call them “IEDs”.

    • Halloween Jack

      I’m wondering if there’s also a distinction to be made WRT the size and power of drones. The ones that I see for sale tend to be not any bigger than a dinner plate and probably have a correspondingly small range and ceiling of operation. I doubt that one the size of the one at the top of this post can go up to 3500 feet. In fact, I’d assume that one big and strong enough to do that would be more like what you’d find being used by a police department, which, oddly, Erik doesn’t seem to mention as a possibility.

  • joe from Lowell

    Will it take a plane crash that kills 200 people to lead to a crackdown against privately owned drones? Or are drones the new gun, with their use “personal freedom” no matter what the cost?

    Responsible gun owner shoots down drone, faces felony charges.

    I’d “root for injuries,” if I wasn’t so certain I’d suffer one.

    • The Temporary Name

      The drone-downing comes months after Oklahoma lawmakers considered a bill that would allow homeowners to shoot down a drone that’s flying over their property.

      Problem solved right there!

    • Stag Party Palin

      The drone-downing comes months after Oklahoma lawmakers considered a bill that would allow homeowners to shoot down a drone that’s flying over their property.

      The only question is whether Erik will support this – it’s the only practical answer to drone invasions. Skeet shooters will find steady jobs at airports. On the home front America is rested and ready and loaded.

      PS: Temporary Name has Faster Fingers.

  • Owlbear1

    These Quadcopters really have passed the mark of “Any moron with money” can operate.

    First step might be to make sure the sellers are informing their customers of the relevant laws. And it should certainly be more than 2 lines in bold letters on the packaging.

    • CaptBackslap – YOLO Edition

      A mandatory training session for drones over some size/weight threshold wouldn’t be a bad idea, honestly. If someone can drop a couple grand on one of those, thirty bucks or so to learn to use it safely isn’t going to be a big bite.

  • Lost Left Coaster

    What’s amazing to me is how one of these drones could take down a commercial flight any day, but we still have to get our goddamn shoes X-rayed just to board a plane.

    It’s far beyond time to put some strict regulations on these things. Licensing operators and registering aircraft is a bare minimum.

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      Yeah, but do you have any idea how much damage those shoes would do if they were ingested by a jet engine??1?

      There’s a reason the airlines don’t let you hang your feet out the windows, people!

  • CaptBackslap – YOLO Edition

    Yeah, I mean, fuck carefully-tailored policymaking that preserves freedom to the maximum extent while solving the problem. Just ban shit, because hey, if you personally don’t like it, it must not be important to anyone.

    A ban on publicly-owned drones flying on domestic soil, on the other hand, is something I could get behind.

  • Julia Grey

    As a former jet engine mechanic who in my early enlisted days used to be sent out with my fellow peons to the flightline in a sweep to police up “FOD” (any tiny piece of flotsam or jetsam that could be sucked up into a jet engine while it taxied for takeoff), the thought of those “little aluminum and wire” quads buzzing around the intake of an airliner gives me the shaking willies.

    HOWEVER.

    While I can support requirements for registration and transponderizing, as well as reform in the scope/criteria of what constitutes “criminal” use of drones, I can’t see that we need to ban them outright. I can see how they’d be useful in citizen journalism, for instance.

    In the same vein, although I support the kind of vigorous regulation of firearms that would make Wayne Pierre want to drown himself, I can’t see that we need to ban guns, either.

    Criminalize the abuses, let the Evull Gummint keep track of the relevant equipment, and, gee, imagine it: enforce the laws…even when it’s respectable white people who are breaking them.

    Then again, I’m a hopeless idealist, and I’m aware that ALL of this talk…including this idea about banning drones…is just idle conversation about stuff that will never happen.

    • Julia Grey

      I don’t know how I posted two different versions of the same post, but the one above is incomplete. Disregard. :)

      If you’ve already read it, please be so kind as to read the additional fascinating information at the bottom of the one below. It’s FASCINATING.*

      *As footnotes always are.

  • Julia Grey

    As a former jet engine mechanic who in my early enlisted days used to be sent out with my fellow peons to the flightline in a sweep to police up “FOD” (any tiny piece of flotsam or jetsam that could be sucked up into a jet engine while it taxied for takeoff), the thought of those “little aluminum and wire” quads buzzing around the intake of an airliner gives me the shaking willies.*

    HOWEVER.

    While I can support requirements for registration and transponderizing, as well as reform in the scope/criteria of what constitutes “criminal” use of drones, I can’t see that we need to ban them outright. I can see how they’d be useful in citizen journalism, for instance.

    In the same vein, although I support the kind of vigorous regulation of firearms and their ownership and sales that would make Wayne Pierre want to drown himself, I can’t see that we need to ban guns, either.

    Criminalize the abuses, let the Evull Gummint keep track of the relevant equipment, and, gee, imagine it: enforce the laws…even when it’s respectable white people who are breaking them.

    Then again, I’m a hopeless idealist, and I’m aware that ALL of this talk…including this idea about banning drones…is just idle conversation about stuff that will never happen.

    *I worked on only one “birdstruck” engine in JEIM and it was a mess. The compression chamber was totally destroyed, because all it takes is one little bit of something to stop those blades from turning when they’re going a million miles an hour, and then centrifugal force takes over, and the spinout starts….

    You were lucky.

    • celticdragonchick

      I was on the sheetmetal side of the house (did A&P work for a bit and then I went to sheetmetal)
      Yeah…a drone getting sucked into a B777 engine is not my idea of fun at all.

      • Julia Grey

        I worked on the TF-33. I can imagine how the YUUUUUGE turbofan at the front (I could stand up in the intake and couldn’t touch the top of the cowling) would make some insane shrapnel outta one of those quad fliers. The mass and tensile strength of hollow bird bones, guts and feathers are NOTHING compared to, say, a couple of AAA batteries.

        Most of the damage caused by a birdstrike is from the disruption of the rotation of the compressor blades, which at best interferes with the efficient compression needed to keep the engine running (anything from horking/hiccups to total flame-out), or at worst causes one of the blades to bend or separate from the rotor (havoc, up to and including causing bits of the engine to fling themselves through the airframe and into passengers). If you add in the factor of actual metal or carbon fiber bits getting through the fan and into that danger zone (instead of just a disruptive mass of guts and slivers of light bird bones), you’ve got a much more scary situation.

  • The damn lasers are bad enough. I’ve already been lased a couple times by green industrial-strength lasers that any idiot can order off the internet.

    I really don’t need some idiot running a drone into my 757.

    • sparks

      Yes, but they’re less dangerous than birds! You won’t have both engines disabled when only one drone hits! Or have more than one crash through your windshield! Suck it up, it’s new tech.

      Such I have learned from some of the commentariat above.

    • Marek

      Drones with lasers… coming soon!

      • The Temporary Name

        The batteries on ’em will trash a fuselage, let alone an intake fan.

    • celticdragonchick

      I ended my aviation career in fucking 757. I was closing out panels in the aft cargo bay when I lost my L4/L5 disc after putting in a bunch of 12 to 15 hour days leading up to Christmas at TIMCO in Greensboro. I found out I have degenerative disc disease.

      Getting taken out of work in an ambulance is not an ideal end to your profession.

      • Julia Grey

        It’s the repetitive small injury that will do stuff like that to you. Day after day of just a little extra stress each time you perform a task, which causes a microscopic bit of tearing on the discs and ligaments, over and over again, until finally the microscopic injuries have added up to something that puts you in the hospital.

        I inhaled berylliosis dust from my engines. I’m one of the lucky 2% of the population who are sensitive to beryllium. It stayed in my lungs and my immune system kept flaring up against it, recovering, flaring up. Nobody knew what was causing me to be so tired all the time. I had the “yuppie flu” and there was nothing wrong with me. I was a malingerer. It was all in my head. If I’d only get more exercise….

        Finally, 25 years later, I ended up in the hospital with heart failure due to the fluid pressure in my lungs caused by a particularly serious flare up. They did a biopsy, sent it to the Mayo Clinic, and figured it out.

        If you think something is wrong, if you “know” in your heart that your body is being abused by what you are doing day after day, you’re right. Little things add up, and you can easily end up on a stretcher if you make excuses for abusing yourself (all the while saying, “I’ll rest up when….” or “it’s such a little pain, and it goes away when I take…” and so on).

        Yeah, yeah, I know. None of us had any choice at the time, and we had no idea it could be so serious, but still…

  • So…fleets of drones are the new ack-ack? Has anyone told the USAF?

    • Lee Rudolph

      Cf. my allusions to DARPA and practicality above. I think we can assume that the answer is yes.

      I mean, there are men (other than Mickey Kaus) who stare at fucking goats.

      • I saw that movie and the goats were not fucking. They were rather placid, in fact.

        • Ahuitzotl

          oh you saw the censored version?

          • Possibly, but I own Badder Santa and not Bad Santa.

      • Also…

        I think we can assume that the answer is yes.

        This is why you’re not a DoD-supplier billionaire.

  • Morse Code for J

    The problem is entry into unauthorized airspace, intentional or unintentional, by a drone whose owner you can’t identify, perhaps not even after it crashes or collides with something.

    If a Cessna accidentally enters a terminal airspace or prohibited airspace like P-40 (Camp David), then there are a number of ways to establish who it was – tracking a primary radar target through the airspace it violated to the airport where it lands, seeing a tail number from the air or the ground, etc. – and contacting the FAA so that corrective action may be taken. There are no tail numbers or transponder beacons for drones, and they’re too small and contain too little metal to provide a primary radar target.

    Ban drones, no. Mandate the installation of a GPS tracker that talks to cell phone towers with a unique ID that will allow authorities to trace the drone to its point of purchase, yes.

    • Lee Rudolph

      a drone whose owner you can’t identify, perhaps not even after it crashes or collides with something

      and certainly not after it is sucked into a jet engine.

      • Morse Code for J

        Of course, even if I knew that Timmy Dipshit caused American 123 to crash on short final with his quadcopter because of cell tower positioning data, Timmy Dipshit is judgment-proof.

        • Lee Rudolph

          Timmy Dipshit is judgment-proof.

          I dunno. Live by the drone, die by the drone.

          …And now that I’m thinking along those lines: city life will become immensely livelier when rival gangs add drone forces to their rumbles! Yes, indeed, we’re living in more and more interesting times, you betcha.

          • Hogan

            city life will become immensely livelier when rival gangs add drone forces to their rumbles!

            Screw rumbles. Untraceable drug deliveries.

        • Malaclypse

          Yes, but whoever manufactured and sold Timmy Dipshit his dangerous toy is probably not judgement-proof.

          • Marek

            I think we’re in suing-gun-manufacturers territory there. Wouldn’t want to be the lawyer on that case.

            • Jordan

              Ya, but those guys have specific protection laws for them. Doubt the drone people do.

        • Chuchundra

          He might not be able to find the cash to reimburse you for the shiny, new aircraft he wrecked with his drone, but he can certainly make up for that by spending a long stretch in the Federal pen.

  • j_kay

    Isn’t the right way thoughtul regulations and rules, like for cars and model rockets?

    The era might be why regulations didn’t happen yet. Though the thread’s pointed out that FAA has started a proposal.

  • Newly obligatory.

  • dl

    Are this many people super into drones in general, or is it just some bizarre coincidence about this site/comment thread?

    I guess any fanatical pro-drone commenters who are 10-year old boys are excused.

    • Pretty striking, no?

      • sibusisodan

        Not really. At least, not more striking than your choice of title.

        ‘Regulate private drones’ or ‘Enforce existing regulations on private drones’ would have generated a lot more agreement.

    • Jordan

      Same thing happens when gizmodo posts about drones (which is a decent amount). Loooots of internet people like their flying toys and FUCK YOU to everyone else, apparently.

      here for a bunch, if you care

    • I don’t think I’m a drone fanatic but they are pretty fun and interesting. They can be rather exhilarating to fly because of what you can see and, like kites, model rockets, etc flying stuff is just fun for lots of people.

      And let’s suppose that’s all there is to them. So they aren’t “necessary”. I’m not sure why anyone should feel bad about the pleasure that derives from such activity. Erik has seemed to argue that the fact that lots of drones are toys ipso facto means that the policy response to their growing use, availability, or misuse is a ban. Now maybe that’s, in fact, the right policy response. But noting the costs of the policy response is t unreasonable. Similarly, noting the enforcement difficulties isn’t unreasonable.

      I think this is true for gun policy. It’s clear that a lot of people enjoy various gun activities. A lot. So an outright ban is going to have costs. Now, with guns, the costs are massive. Maybe this will be true for drones as well so if we can nip it in the bud, yay. But pretending that the pleasures aren’t real or are just ignorable is t a good way to think about policy.

  • shah8

    Drones makes physical facilities unsafe, full stop–mostly as a feature of no traffic/id controls.

    I don’t think I have to think as hard as Tim McVeigh to make a big boom. Just fly a drone with a small explosive charge into a refinery or anywhere else there are lots explosive particles suspended in air…and that’s off the top of my head.

    I think pretty quickly, you will see a rapid intolerance for asshole with drones. It’s just more dangerous than assholes with snowmobiles. Also a development of an anti-drone industry for those concerned with personal/industrial security and privacy.

    • ajay

      a refinery or anywhere else there are lots explosive particles suspended in air

      Deduction: shah8 has never been in a refinery and doesn’t know anything about them.

      • Dennis Orphen

        Maybe Shah8 meant grain elevators.

        • Julia Grey

          Is there anywhere that they store lots of loose coffee creamer?

          • Dennis Orphen

            How about cake mix instead?

  • Julia Grey

    Another thing to think about is that a ban would cause an underground black market to spring up. Like, you know, the “war on drugs” creates a black market that causes more problems than it purportedly solves.

    Regulate and tax, don’t criminalize.

    P.S. I do not own a private drone and never will. I don’t find them personally interesting at all. Same goes for guns. I just don’t think BANS work.

It is main inner container footer text