Now the saying is that a bad workman never blames his tools, but the negative news about drones this week includes that many incidents of near misses, errant drones flying away from operators and deaths attributable to military drones that it’s hard not to wonder.
The first article which caught my eye is from the military end of the drone market. AP in Sanaa, as reported by the Guardian, offers the news that three al-Qaida suspects have been killed in Yemen. In the same report a figure was cited by American intelligence agencies of 117 civilians killed under ex-President Obama’s watch. It remains to be seen how that figure stands up against strikes ordered by the current Commander-in-Chief, but there are fears that the civilian casualty rate may be higher. As it is, there are questions about the exact figure cited in the intelligence agencies’ report.
Drones are well known for pestering aircraft, it seems. One of many reported near misses recently comes from the BBC which reports on a drone endangering an aircraft landing at Birmingham Airport. It was seen above a primary school, the report adds, and the school was contacted although the police were unable to locate the drone’s operator.
The UK ‘dronecode’ for safe operation of these machines states that they should not be flown above 400ft or near low flying aircraft.
Some drones, though, will go off course precisely because they are near restricted airspace. The one which writer Antonio Villas-Boas was due to review for Business Insider magazine did just that, when it strayed too close to a no-fly zone and crashed. The thousand-dollar-plus drone is now stranded on a remote ridge in Oahu, Hawaii, due to the fact that the operator’s video feed cut out an an inopportune moment and he was unable to prevent the drone’s untimely demise.
The Times of India comes up with some interesting articles occasionally and the fourth piece which caught my eye this week was one such. It shows that drone-aircraft interactions are not limited to the United Kingdom and the United States. The paper’s Mumbai office writes that a drone was spotted at 12,000ft/3,657m by a pilot whose passenger aircraft was descending into Mumbai Airport. In India, drone flying is banned entirely, while in many other countries, drones are limited to flying at a certain altitude, often around 400ft/122m high or within sight of the operator.
The last article for this week is an Australian report that a drone hacking tool has been released there. CIO.com says that this allows users to take over control of drones in the air. The tool is primarily designed for military use, with an autonomous function for remote operation. This will enable much safer interception of drones in warzones, but I can’t help but wonder what chaos would ensue if it was to hit the private market. Things might get very sticky, very quickly.
Not sure what next week will bring but I’m sure there will be more drone-related action to report.
- theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/22/us-drone-strikes-al-qaida-yemen-trump; Suspected US drone strikes kill three al-Qaida suspects in Yemen, officials say; The Guardian via Associated Press in Sanaa; 22 January 2017
- bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-38774718; Drone in ‘near miss’ over Birmingham Airport; BBC.co.uk; Birmingham and Black Country local news feed; 27 January 2017
- uk.businessinsider.com/dji-phantom-4-drone-review-i-lost-it-in-hawaii-2017-1?r=US&IR=T; I was going to review a $1,200 drone, but I lost it in Hawaii — here’s what happened; Business Insider; Antonio Villas-Boas; 28 January 2017
- timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/drone-spotted-at-12000-ft-by-pilot-of-aircraft-approaching-mumbai/articleshow/56840931.cms; Drone spotted at 12,000 feet by pilot of aircraft approaching Mumbai; TNN; 29 January 2017
- cio.com.au/article/613061/drone-hacking-tool-launches-australia/; Drone hacking tool launches in Australia; George Nott; 23 January 2017