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Drones Under FAA Consideration

May 27, 2014

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Once again NBC online “news” takes a suspect possibility and bills it as only a good thing, while downplaying the risk to citizens. I wonder if this article is going to vanish like the others I commented on… The link (so long as it is helpful) is here: <http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/drones-are-ready-save-lives-u-s-regulations-keep-them-n113611&gt;.

This article is about how drones are being prepared to help search for the kidnapped Nigerian girls, taken for the audacity to learn and to become better people where others—too cowardly to show their faces, though not for any lack of will to attack the government and risk capture—clearly can’t appreciate they aren’t living in the right century. I hope those kidnappers are flayed alive, personally, but that’s a different matter.

M. Alex Johnson returns for another poor excuse for journalism masking editorializing by either impugning the dignity or capacity of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and making very pointed, unwarranted (and tacit) accusations it has not taken any steps to incorporate drones into its regulations. Alright, Johnson, here’s a reply. You may take it into consideration the next time you pretend to write news.

1. I don’t dispute the FAA has had serious issues with keeping up, and it’s made bad judgment calls. The existence of the Transportation Security Administration is obvious proof the FAA can’t regulate security in is facilities across the country, and maybe it is too much to expect with rampant terrorism across the world. If the FAA is simply incapable because this would be unrealistic, one can’t blame it for the TSA. It probably can’t be blamed on the FAA at all, either way.

Security regulations in airports, at least, have been called off-base and slow with regard to the threats they are supposed to counter by former leadership of these groups, and that has not changed much so far as I know. That said, it is unfair of Johnson to imply the FAA is refusing to react to the rise of drone air traffic, or that it is not considering regulations at all. Just because it hasn’t released official measures in this regard doesn’t mean they aren’t being discussed. The drone program has been limited largely to military operations overseas until very recently, and I guarantee the federal government has introduced the topic to the FAA for domestic military operations at least (assuming there aren’t private regulations along those lines already).

The FAA has no call to devise such policies until now, really, since there has been little corporate interest in it until last year. Developing such policies without the demand would be irresponsible use of resources.

2. One existing regulation involving drones is a rule they must operate below 400 feet. So there is a capacity for their application, notwithstanding the restriction of commercial activity. It is not like it is impossible for drones to be used, or they are deemed unsafe when necessary. They were, until recently, simply not common enough to warrant more discussion. They have been used despite these regulations, and they can in the future with proper protocol. With luck, that protocol can be simplified soon when it comes to law enforcement and pertinent commercial applications.

3. There are real dangers for drones in great numbers. The risk of collision with larger aircraft, misguided drones, and mechanical failure—resulting in theft of private property companies should be held accountable for, property damage, or people injured—demands insurance in the fiscal and figurative senses. These things must be prepared before giving approval for widespread permission of drone usage. Johnson shows no appreciation for the process this involves and he blithely glazes over people hurt from drone failure elsewhere. If drones cloud airspace in and around things like cell phone towers and power lines in the United States, these incidents would be significant without cautious implementation. If Congress appreciates the preparation required for this, is not fairly shown here.

 

So, the writer’s failures listed (sorry, he’s really bothering me), the information presented here bears reaction as much as its presentation on this website. Johnson too breezily ignores the risk of injury and damage from drones in the U. S., in any numbers. He also, conveniently, downplays a very real infringement sure to happen with the adoption of drones by law enforcement.

Drone surveillance is depicted here as a hypothetical event, and one not likely to happen often. Whatever optimistic assurances the author of that NBC article gives, it is a surety privacy is sacrificed if county sheriff departments, state police, and worse—the federal authorities—have drone usage rubber stamped by courts too willing to permit these things. The tendency for the expanding scope of executive power in all levels of government is obvious. I need not reiterate the recent violations of civil liberties by tapping private phone lines, gathering metadata, complacent courts, and spying on Americans without warrants. So what stops it from getting worse?

The image above tells enough about how this danger is treated far too lightly. The excerpt is taken completely out of context, and if drones become common law enforcement devices, it promises to be factually untrue. Besides, why would a police drone not spy from above? If it can be used to find lost hikers it can be used to surveil suspects or persons of interest. Drones wouldn’t be too loud anyway, and with normal sounds of the traffic, winds, conversations, and such most drones would not be heard. Who looks up except to see the sky? How hard would it be for police or federal agents to install cameras with a zoom function so the drone would be out of earshot?

Don’t insult our intelligence, Johnson. It only takes a brain and an attention span of more than thirty seconds to know drones would be used with impunity by too many law enforcement agencies. Firing off fireworks could be construed as attacking police vehicles, even by accident. Using a tarp in your own yard could be considered obstructing an investigation if you suspect you’re being watched. Where does it end?

Drones can be commercially viable, and may do great things for rescue and law enforcement. They aren’t any more evil than any other device. It depends who uses them and what they intend to do with this capacity. But the FAA is not so dull-witted as this article pretends, and the dangers of drones are more significant than writers pretending to be journalists would like to have the people think. I do wish there was one in the U. S. with a good rocket, though. If it targeted Johnson’s means of writing this rubbish I would have more constructive work done by now. But I guess that’s my fault more than his.

 

** What a shock, this link is gone too!  …  **

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