Drones and privacy–will you allow it, or shoot them down?


There’s quite a bit of talk these days about drones, or unmanned aircraft (UAS).  These have several problems, when you get right down to it.

  1. Noise pollution – it’s annoying enough when Sherrif’s helicopters fly overhead and loiter for awhile, but while a UAS would probably be quieter, it’s still not silent.
  2. Safety – If one of these malfunctions or the remote pilot makes a mistake, they can crash, doing damage to persons and property
  3. Privacy – are you comfortable having cameras over your home or business, watching you and recording what you are doing?  If you are, perhaps Russia would be a better place for you to live.

I am mainly concerned about #3, though the first two certainly are things to think about.  As time go by we (as a nation) are slowly giving up our privacy by allowing our lives to become more public (we post personal stuff on Facebook or Twitter and then wonder how stalkers know about us for example).  Todays youth has grown up with this pervasive social network and doesn’t even give a thought to how their personal privacy is compromised by participating.  It seems it’s only us old farts who grew up before this became prevalent who look at it and say “wow, that’s not good, nope, I’m not doing that”.

Unmanned drones are another thing that is starting to take off (ok, sorry, couldn’t resist that).  If we sit idly by and allow this to happen, then there will be no concept of privacy, even in your own back yard.

One town in Colorado has a proposal drafted by resident Phillip Steel to do something about this, in a very American manner.  According to Steel, “We do not want drones in town.  They fly in town, they get shot down”.  Excellent!

The proposal was to sell $25 hunting licenses, and offered a $100 reward to anyone who shot down a drone “known to be owned or operated by the United States Government”.  Wow, how cool is THAT??

The FAA of course (in their traditional role as spoilsports) takes issue with this, stating “Shooting at an unmanned aircraft could result in criminal or civil liability, just as would firing at a manned airplane”.  They claim that they are responsible for airspace and safety and that a damaged aircraft could crash and hurt somebody or damage property (hmm… kinda like my #2 above even without the gunman, but I’m sure they feel THOSE risks are acceptable).

Personally, I think that if everybody took the attitude that Mr. Steel has, that the FAA would find it difficult or impossible to enforce on a large scale, the government would find that they are spending a LOT of money to replace these expensive planes, and the whole thing would fizzle, much to the delight of privacy loving folks everywhere.

Here’s another entertaining alternative, borrowed from WWII.  The Germans had flying bombs which had no pilot and would fly across the channel, run out of Petrol (it’s England, folks), then crash and explode.  They were quite terrifying as weapons because of their random targets and because you could hear them and knew you were safe… until the engine stopped.  Very Hitchcock-esque from a terror standpoint, but I digress.  The allies came up with a good solution.  They’d fly up next to these things, put a wingtip under their wing and then roll their plane.  This caused the bomb to bank, veer off course, and crash in the channel.  Wouldn’t it be fun to do that with a Drone?  Of course I never would do such a terrible thing, and I would never recommend that anybody else do such a terrible and rebellious act, but it’s fun to think about isn’t it?  I bet there are a number of other fun scenarios that don’t involve something as direct as shooting a drone down.  This could be a fun video game!!

Here’s a short article in AVWEB about this amusing Colorado proposal.

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