This is an essay on drone legislation's which I wrote for my formal writing standard at school.
‘Drones’. The word sends a shiver down the backs of many people, and rightly so. Drones have recently become notorious for their lethal activities in the Middle East, and people are afraid that they will be used at home. In the United States of America, citizens are becoming aware of the increasing use of ‘Unmanned Aerial Vehicles’ by law enforcements agencies. This is leading to a lot of propositions for new legislations, and while these may seem good at first, what does this really mean? These legislations would negatively affect the rising community of drone hobbyists, who use drones purely for their own entertainment or for filming purposes. These people would be stripped of their hobby, while doing nothing wrong. While these laws are just being lobbied for in the United States of America at the moment, they are raising awareness about drones in other countries, such as New Zealand. If America passes laws about drones, New Zealand will most likely follow. Is this really what we want?
In the United States of America people worried that drones will be used around their homes. While these concerns seem reasonable, a lot of people don’t realise that the drones flying around their neighbourhood won’t be the lethal MQ-9 Reapers (see image below) used in Afghanistan, but rather smaller so called ‘multi-copters’ (see image below). They are nothing more than large model helicopters with camera systems. There is a huge difference between these drones, and people should be made aware of that. However, the people who do know about this difference believe that their right for privacy is not being taken into account, and along with others are calling for an outright ban on drones. This is a very drastic measure and should be stopped. I agree that concerns over privacy should be taken into account, but banning drones is a step too far. This would also ban remote control models, such as the Parrot A.R Drone, which is a remote control helicopter designed to be controlled by a Smartphone, and is mainly used by kids. Why should a whole category of toys and models be wiped from the market, just because people are afraid of military drones? There are also a lot of non-military uses for drones; during the BP oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, a drone was used to assess damages safely without endangering human lives. Environmental and forestry services also use drones for collecting research data and for search and rescue. These are all legitimate uses for drones which would be affected by these laws.
There is also another group of people who use drones: the hobbyist community. These people build small drones purely for their own entertainment and would be stripped of their hobby by these legislations. These hobbyist drones can range from small remote control helicopters or planes with cameras attached to larger models with fully functioning waypoint and autopilot systems. While this may frighten some people at first, there is nothing inherently threatening about this. So far, the model community has been generally left to police themselves, with a few regulations to govern them. This has actually worked very well so far, with people using common sense and flying their models over large open spaces, and not doing low passes over their neighbourhood. Of course, there are always those few people who ignore caution and do dangerous things, and sadly these are the ones we hear about. However, this can apply to everything, as generally everyone drives carefully, but there are always those few people who ignore common sense and drive under the influence of alcohol, and this is the cause of a lot of the car crashes we hear about in the news. So really, why should this community of DIY drone makers have their hobby taken away from them, just because police forces use the same technology? This is like saying kids shouldn’t own walkie-talkies because the police force uses them, and because those kids might hear someone else’s transmission. I share peoples’ concern for privacy, but I can think of a better solution than banning them:
- You are not allowed to fly drones over other peoples’ property without the owners consent.
- The above rule does not apply when a pilot flies above a predefined height, using similar regulations as full scale aircraft use.
The former is very simple, but I find that the latter is very important. Because drones are mainly used for reconnaissance roles, people often link drones to high tech camera equipment which will spy on them. While this is justifiable, this camera equipment can be mounted on a normal manned aircraft just as easily. The main reason drones were used for these roles in the Middle East is because it does not put a pilot’s life in risk when flying over dangerous areas, and because it is more economical to use drones. I agree that privacy laws need to catch up with the newest technology, but drones should not be taking all the blame. The easiest way to gain these images from above is using satellite technology, which is already commonly available to anyone interested, and the military satellites are even starting to use technology that can see through clouds. These along with manned aircraft are numerous simple ways to gather the same information that drones can gather, but sadly people are looking into this very blindly and are blaming the hobbyist community.
So far this debate has just been confined to the United States of America, but it has been raising awareness in other countries, such as New Zealand. The police force and the fire service have recently purchased small drones similar to the ones used by hobbyists, and this news had made the headlines in the local newspapers. But this news was not presented with joy, as it was warning people about their privacy and portraying these small helicopters as monsters in the sky, comparing them to the MQ-9 Reaper drones used in the Middle East. New Zealand is a country which often over regulates things, and this fate is likely on the way for drones. Unless we raise awareness about all sides of the debate, people will try to outright ban drones, and as I have mentioned before, this is not the right way to go about this issue. Unknown to many people, New Zealand actually has numerous commercial ‘Unmanned Aerial Vehicle’ operators, with most of them being used for aerial filming or photography and surveying purposes. One such operator, Tim Whittaker, owns numerous drones, and believes that drones can be used safely with the right precautions. Mr Whittaker also believes that drones would have come in useful during the 2009 ‘Napier Siege’, where a gunman kept police at bay for 3 days. It took the police 2 days to get a robot that could break down the door, while a drone could have flown up and looked into the window with in no time. And as Mr Whittaker stated: “It's relatively cheap ... if it got blown out with a double-barrelled shotgun, well, better than a person”. This is a great example of why the police force has a great need for drones, and why a blanket ban or too tight regulations would not be suitable.
Drones are feared around the world, and perhaps the have earned this fear through the United States Military. But drones are used for many peaceful and safe purposes around the world, where they abolish the need of putting someone’s life into risk. A lot of people do not seem to realise this, and just want drones to be banned. I believe this would be a bad thing, as it would severely cripple the industry and hobby of many. While laws and regulations do need to be revised to match the new technology available, this should be thought of carefully, with all sides of the debate taken into close account. People just aren’t used to drones, and I believe that they will be considered normal in no time. This is how our human society works! When the first trains appeared, there was a similar resistance. Now think of the use of vehicles in today’s time. We are an advancing civilization, and new technology is part of our culture. Drones are just the next step. At least drones are under human control. They are not free thinking robots; they are just advanced remote control planes, where you don’t have to risk a pilot’s life. Just because drones usually carry cameras does not mean that planes cannot do the same. Think of the old saying: ‘Guns don’t kill people, the man behind the gun does’. This applies to drones just as much: ‘Drones don’t spy on people, the person controlling the drone does’.
You guys don't need the images as you know the difference between a Reaper and a Quadcopter