You're walking along the street minding your own business when bam, out of nowhere something hits you hard in the chest, winding you. You fall backward and lose your feet, landing on the sidewalk. You've been hit by something solid, then you feel wet and cold. Looking down you realize that you are saturated and there is ice on the floor, with what must have been a full one-liter take-out cup of coke. As you come back to your senses a truck drives past, with a couple of guys in the front howling with laughter, the remainder of their drive-through now covering you.
Put a couple of jerks in charge of a one-ton vehicle doing 30 mph and anything can happen. In this case, it was throwing something out of a moving vehicle which hits you hard — very hard. Imagine that was, well, a drone. Put a couple of jerks in charge of a two-pound drone doing 30 mph (the DJI Mavic Pro weighs 1.6 pounds and can do 40 mph) and, if it hits you, you are really going to know about it. And that's before you get into near misses with passenger aircraft, delivering drugs to prisons, flying over sensitive military areas and general issues around the right to privacy.
We require people to be licensed to drive cars and, thankfully, aircraft, but not (at least non-commercially in many countries) to fly drones. This is a tricky area because drones are cheap, anyone can fly them and (perhaps the biggest problem) it's difficult to police. Even if we did criminalize it, it would affect every 12 year old who picked up a mini-drone for $9.99.
So, with this backdrop, the BBC reports on planned U.K. government legislation to increase non-commercial restrictions (proposals due Spring 2018). The Civil Aviation Authority already has the helpful DroneSafe website but wants to see:
- Registration for pilots of drones weighing more than 250 grams.
- Mandatory drone safety awareness testing for this group.
- New seizure powers for police.
- Greater commercial use, for example, parcel delivery.
I imagine we'll see a range of similar proposals appearing piecemeal in different countries. Given the explosion in the commercial and non-commercial use of drones by photographers, do these proposals go in the right direction or are we on the verge of over-regulation (and yes, I speak from experience about being hit by flying coke)?
Images used with permission of pixel2013.