A rather small story hit the media over the weekend which may be an ominous sign for a fast coming future. This concerns a close call between a commercial airliner and a drone. The incident happened over Tallahassee, Florida back in March. An American Airlines jet was coming in for a landing at this Florida airport and spotted the drone flying a few miles away at about 2300 feet. This incident came up during a conference on drones taking place in San Francisco. This conference is covering a market which is expanding on the use of drones. We used to hear about these small aircraft remotely flown in Afghanistan. They can be capable of attacking with bombs, but generally have been used to check out the vast wasteland that comprises Afghanistan. They have been crucial in spotting and killing terrorists. As with technology utilized in the earlier American manned space program (GPS for example) which eventually found its way into the consumer market, drone use in the military is spilling out into the general consumer and commercial markets. The trick here is regulation. No matter what the freaks who abhor regulation say, the potential for a crowded airspace is quite high when it comes to drones taking to the air by tens of thousands Americans.
This March near miss with a commercial airliner is a perfect example of the threat drones pose. Needless to say, remote controlled aircraft have been around for years, but like any other technology, it is leaping rapidly into a force that needs to be reckoned with.So far, anybody could take their "drone" and fly it where ever they want because it's a wide open territory out there. Law enforcement organizations, farmers, and local and state governments to a small degree utilize drones since it's an effective tool in seeking law breakers, livestock, or just checking on vast stretches of territory which used to demand raw manpower.
The individual consumer loves remote controlled aircraft. You can buy a cheap remote controlled helicopter now at Walgreen's for around $20.Needless to say, there are plenty more flying objects to choose from. Trust me, as we speak, or write, somebody is building a remote controlled flying saucer which will create a real buzz in the months and years to come. But the need to regulate these flying objects will and is becoming needed chatter in Washington, and beyond. The obvious potential for danger comes with a close encounter with a commercial airliner like what happened over Florida a few months back. But in this world we live in now where more and more cameras operate without our knowledge, the idea that a drone could be used to spy on almost anybody is a real threat. A drone which could lose control and crash into a house or children's playground offer other potential incidents which could be beyond our control. Envision a crowded sky full of drones nearly missing each other. If all these objects were remotely controlled, what is the mechanism to assure they don't crash--into each other or some building? I also predict there will be random shoot downs of drones by some citizen with a gun.
Technology is moving so quick, it seems to outpace our ability to control it. Anybody today has the ability to take your picture without you knowing it. Run a red light, and a cop doesn't have to be around anymore because the red light camera can snap a picture, and eventually lead to a ticket which is sent to you. Future shock is and has been with us for decades. The faster we come up with new technology, the quicker it can be placed into the consumer marketplace before regulations can even be thought out or placed into law. It's not about over regulation, it's about common sense and protecting us from ourselves. The old song from the atomic age about dodging the big bomb might be sung again to citizens all over America: duck and cover folks...here come the drones.