The Dangers of Crowded Skies
"There's actually no documented case of a death yet from a civilian drone, but you put $10-billion worth of consumer products up there and I think it's really only a matter of time."
Don Toporowski, University of Ontario Institute of Technology
"What we don't want is too many limitations, but we do have to recognize that there are manned aircraft out there and we need to work together with the aviation authorities as well as with the pilot associations in working out ways that both can live in the same airspace."
"Countries like that [Sweden], they will suffer from the impact of their decision and they will revise their regulations at some point because they are losing out on a lot of opportunities."
Romeo Durscher, director of education, DJI Ltd. (drone manufacturer)
"The conversation about privacy in my opinion went on for far too long and we lost two years of progress because people were worried about cameras flying in their windows."
John Corbin, founder, Corbin Visual (video production company)
"A 14-year-old kid doesn’t understand the risk of flying a drone into an aircraft. They are taught not to step on the train lines, but not about drones."In the United States, the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority each month is sent over 100 reports of drone incidents, one of which was a report of a drone in flight at 8,000 feet over Los Angeles Airport, the very altitude aircraft maintain in a holding pattern. A drone was seen over the fifth busiest airport in the world, in Istanbul, Turkey which claims its airport was geofenced, protected by means of an electronic exclusion zone preventing remote-controlled craft from entering the air space.
"There’s going to be a lot of people buying drones who will want to try them in the park where people are going with dogs and it’s going to end up badly."
"If this thing was to smack you in the face, it would take your eye out without a shadow of a doubt. If a drone had to fly with propeller guards, I wouldn’t lose much sleep at nighttime."
"It’s a brilliant technology if operated correctly. It’s like a car. There are car crashes every day."
Justin Pringle, chief technology officer, drone business Drone Operations
Even the White House has experienced drones flying onto the lawn. In France, authorities reported in excess of 60 incidents over their nuclear installations between October of 2014 and February 2015. And in London, England a drone crashed into an Air bus A320 which was approaching Heathrow airport. As it happened, the plane landed without further incident, but it stands out as a preliminary of what is yet to come, a warning of the potential dangers inherent in skies becoming too crowded with not only commercial and military aircraft but 'harmless' drones in the hands of amateurs.
New technology is fuelling popular demand for drones in private hands. The proliferation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) represent a rapidly expanding market, where these devices can be seen and bought in any store that sells technological gadgets. In Canada, the experience has been that certificates issued to drone operators rose from 66 in 2010 to 2,480 by 2015. Last month, a Porter Airlines plane just managed to avoid a mid-air collision over Lake Ontario when the flight crew realized a drone was in their air space.
The aircraft took evasive measures to avoid contact, leaving two flight attendants suffering minor injuries. Earlier in the year two CF-18 fighter jets scrambled on a mission to investigate reports from Air Canada and WestJet Airlines of a drone flying close to the Ottawa airport. A "no drone zones" campaign was recently initiated by Transport Canada geared toward hobbyists and commercial drone users, of the risks in flying close to airports. The federal agency plans to release new regulations in early 2017 addressing the issue of drones in Canadian air space.
Sweden has enacted regulations outlawing the use of camera drones, resulting from privacy concerns. It was precisely the specific issue of privacy concerns that followed the popularity of drones when they first became accessible to the public market. But concerns over privacy have since evaporated and safety concerns have taken their place, and with better reason than the privacy concerns. The rapidly changing technology that has brought drones into the hands of hobbyists and commercial users has opened up new theatres of incipient danger to the public.
A camera drone fell out of the sky and crashed on a hill that Austrian skier Marcel Hirscher was racing in the Alpine World Cup last December in Italy. It fell directly behind him. Had it been slightly closer to the skier it would have taken his life. As it was he was startled but uninjured and managed to complete the race. The result is that the International Ski Federation is banning drones from future World Cup events, since the safety of those present at competitions is paramount; drone operators will simply have to become far more alert to the dangers their toys present.