Drone Wars

An unmanned aerial system makes headlines every day of the week for one reason or another, mainly for military purposes, but increasingly following misuse by private operators.

Take the following examples as either how not to use a UAS or the potential civil disputes that can arise when doing so.

Last week three South Korean tourists found themselves answering a few questions from Milan’s finest after managing to pilot their small commercial drone into the iconic Duomo di Milano. Apparently gathering some footage of Milanese landmarks ahead of a presentation, they instead await the turning wheels of Italian justice.

The second incident is far more serious and becoming more common, as reports emerged about another near miss between a drone and passenger jet coming into land at London Heathrow earlier this year. The incident took place at some 1,700ft, with the UAS actually flying over the incoming A320. The operator has never been identified.

Again in the UK, and another drone was spotted flying over the venue of the Wimbledon tennis championship, hours before the tournament began. The operator was controlling the flight from a nearby golf course.

drone-674236_1920 - CopyLast and by no means least, a story emerging from the US where a small UAS was shot out of the sky by the operators neighbour in an argument over boundaries, privacy or maybe plain old paranoia. A case of damages went to a local court who found in favour of the operator, awarding a little under $1,000 in damages. This is less a case of misuse, more to do with the risk in using such systems in areas where they might not be welcomed, and the consequences that can result.

These are not isolated incidents. You only have to search a few certain keywords and the list of drones crashing into buildings, flying around public monuments and open space, or otherwise causing alarm, will keep you busy long into the night.

One also can’t argue that the misuse is confined to countries still trying to determine how best to legislate drone use, as serious incidents have occurred in the UK where there are laws set by the Civil Aviation Authority determining how and where private operators can use drones. Laws elsewhere of course, are less certain.

So, what’s the answer? Can regulation make people more circumspect in how they use small UAS’, or are we looking at the creation of drone free zones in the future?

Update: FAA reiterate no drones allowed in Washington DC during Independence Day celebrations

Perhaps the best way to avoid all the trouble of worrisome drones is to ban them from the sky altogether, as in Washington DC, where the FAA again announced yesterday that the 4 July celebrations will be free of UAS’.

The ‘No Drone Zone’ is nothing new of course, having come into place following the 9/11 attacks which prohibits the flying of any type of unmanned aircraft in the District of Columbia, and cities and towns within a 15-mile radius of Ronald Reagan Washington International Airport.

In a statement on Tuesday the FAA said they were conducting the outreach campaign to make that visitors and residents alike knew that drones were still banned from the skies of the capitol.

A similar awareness campaign was held in May this year, where the FAA also announced the intention to create a smartphone app to help operators of leisure UAS’, hobbyists, where they could legally fly their drones.

4 comments

  • Regulations are all well and good but since when did anybody who is knowingly setting out to do something illegal or nefarious care about ‘rules and regulations’ or no fly zones?’ It has to be time for a more direct approach and have an accurate layered detection system that can, if required, disable the incoming drone. This doesn’t just have to be performed by using jamming technology either, there are more ways to skin that particular cat! Time to take action we feel.

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  • Hi Will. I was thinking the same thing, but perhaps a factor I didn’t get into was the consequences of operating a UAS in a ‘no fly zone’. Look at the outcome of incidents in Italy and France, and you might be less inclined to flaunt a drone law in the latter.
    Counter-UAV technology is improving at the time, and a good few firms looking at ways to prevent drone ingress into areas considered out-of-bounds. Obviously you can”t have unmanned systems falling out of the sky when they cross a red line, think of the Health and Safety implications, but I’d just say watch this space.

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  • It’s an interesting one for sure, providing they can locate the pilot accurately and quickly enough then perhaps some people might think twice, but for the drones that can take off from a base station and follow GPS points, without the right detection technology, locating that take off point and or pilot could prove difficult.

    Agreed that having drones fall out the sky in or near public places isn’t the best move at all, the woman being knocked unconscious in Seattle recently is exactly what you wouldn’t want to happen. There are ways though that once a confirmed drone is detected (make/model etc), you can make the device land in a controlled manner, not just drop, a number of options on the horizon here.

    Interesting times ahead regarding detection and control and we’re happy to be involved, as you say, watch this space!

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