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The Military United States Technology

When Drones Fall From the Sky 97

schwit1 sends this report on the perils of imperfect drone technology: "More than 400 large U.S. military drones have crashed in major accidents around the world since 2001, a record of calamity that exposes the potential dangers of throwing open American skies to drone traffic, according to a year-long Washington Post investigation. Since the outbreak of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, military drones have malfunctioned in myriad ways, plummeting from the sky because of mechanical breakdowns, human error, bad weather and other reasons, according to more than 50,000 pages of accident investigation reports and other records obtained by The Post under the Freedom of Information Act.

Commercial drone flights are set to become a widespread reality in the United States, starting next year, under a 2012 law passed by Congress. Drone flights by law enforcement agencies and the military, which already occur on a limited basis, are projected to surge. The documents obtained by The Post detail scores of previously unreported crashes involving remotely controlled aircraft, challenging the federal government’s assurances that drones will be able to fly safely over populated areas and in the same airspace as passenger planes."
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When Drones Fall From the Sky

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 21, 2014 @10:45AM (#47288461)

    It is important to regulate drones, not stop them. From what I'm reading drone related problems are being misdiagnosed as an issue with the hardware. It seems obvious that it's more due to the irresponsible nature of how they are deployed.

    Drone related problems that are mechanical in nature is related to carelessness of the producers and owners based on the conditions which they are deployed. Without humans aboard, drones are being deployed without thorough safety regulations being enforced since there is no risk of fatality to the passengers. In addition, since we lose drones in areas such as Afghanistan, it seems obvious that since we see them as unfriendly or as enemies, we don't take the safety measures to ensure that the people below aren't at risk of major failures. This is terrible and disgusting behavior. Drones are also deployed under irresonsible flying conditions. Small aircraft with human pilots should never be in the air in these conditions, yet we send drones because there is no one on board.

    In short, the issue isn't specifically with drones, it should be identified as issues with the people deploying them. When deploy in them at home, drones should be heavily regulated to ensure responsible deployment and operation.

  • Terminology? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CohibaVancouver ( 864662 ) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @11:17AM (#47288601)
    The problem I have with 'drone' is there isn't a clear definition of what a 'drone' is.

    A thousand-kilogram General Atomics MQ-1 Predator raining freedom (via Hellfire missiles) down upon terrorists is a 'drone' as is one-kilo quadcopter taking webcam pictures of some housing development.

    Back in my day, the former was a 'drone' and the latter was a 'remote controlled plane.'
  • by NatZi ( 119253 ) on Saturday June 21, 2014 @11:22AM (#47288613)

    While drone activists and commercial drone aircraft operators/manufacturers have tried to downplay the numerous problems with drone aircraft use, the facts remain:
    --most of today's drone aircraft are hobbyist-grade devices without significant, controlled testing;
    --major issues remain unresolved (and will worsen if usage increases) related to radio interference;
    --many "hobbist" drones use crowded, common radio spectrum for control (some drones are semi-autonomous or may have basic loss-of-signal processors but again these are largely untested in controlled envionments);
    --it is unclear whether insurers (especially in commercial uses as an insurer defines commercial) will cover the damages from drone aircraft, damages which can be significant including death or property destruction (fires from overheated motors hot enough to melt solder, etc.);
    --with no licensing or registration of drones, it is hard to hold the drone aircraft operator accountable when problems that arise (after all, it's your kid who lost an eye from a drone strike over a playground but hey, the drone operator got away the police say); and
    --the willful violation of the long-standing R/C model aircraft guidelines places R/C model aircraft operator privileges in jeopardy (which is a shame because these hobbyists have decades of responsible operation AWAY from populated areas, AWAY from noise sensitive areas, and AWAY from other aircraft).

    This does not even account for the numerous privacy issues which are equally pressing.

    Thus, looking at the issues posed by drone aircraft (and especially for commercial uses) and failure of the drone aircraft industry / drone aircraft activists) to take a meaningful lead on these issues, fair and practical regulations of drones are needed from both the FAA and the FCC such as testing of drone aircraft and components, radio spectrum limits, licensing of pilots, required training, mandatory liability coverage, drone aircraft inspections and certifications, and drone aircraft registration. No one says drones cannot be operated at all; but if operated, people need adequate protections and assurances just as with any other aircraft. That is common sense.

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