As already previously established, drones are both a good thing and a bad thing. Some of the positive news to come out about drones in the week 7-14 January 2017 include the five articles shared here.
Vox reports that senator Tammy Duckworth, whose small aircraft was involved in a very near miss with a drone, has now become an advocate for the safe use of drones. A twist in the tale is that Senator Duckworth is a licenced pilot herself and was flying the aircraft at the time of the incident. She confirms that the drone which almost took her aircraft down should not have been up as high as it was, and has promised to monitor changes in drone regulations as a result of her experience.
The Bangkok Post carries a story about a drone which successfully delivered soup to a group of surfers in Japan. This is one of the first civilian instances of a drone flying a preset route of more than 10km without incident, although as the sole comment points out, the military have been operating in a similar way for some time. This test was designed to show that drones could be used in disaster relief, flying in supplies to stranded people as needed. Fukushima province, where the test was located, is hoping to become a world centre for drone testing as it recovers from the earthquake and tsunami-induced nuclear facility accident in March 2011.
From Australia’s ABC comes a story that a cattle station has decided to use drones in its cattle muster. This seems like an ideal use of the new technology, as drones are far less disruptive to animals than helicopters or light aircraft, and can also carry a video camera to help workers on the ground monitor the muster. Seemingly, the cattle obligingly move away from the drone when it approaches them too closely, making it sound rather like an electronic sheepdog.
Ars Technica reports on a successful test of a swarm of micro-drones by the US Department of Defense. Arguably, this could be filed under ‘negative news about drones’, but the test was successfully completed, showcasing the micro-drones’ ability to collaborate to carry out tasks. These drones are produced using 3D printing and are described as “a collective organism” capable of “adapting to each other like swarms in nature”.
The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department has confirmed that it will begin to use drones to assist in response to some call outs including bomb threats and hostage situations. The military has been using remote control vehicles for detection and detonation in certain situations for some time, but the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for the task is still relatively rare in civilian life. When bombs are found in the United Kingdom, the Army Bomb Disposal Unit are often mobilised to deal with the threat. The use of drones in this role has not proved popular in the United States, and their use is tightly controlled by the FAA.
For all the negative publicity about drones, these articles are proof that there is good news for the world of unmanned aerial vehicles. A responsibly flown camera drone can be an extension of human eyes, providing helpful footage and autonomous services. However, as Senator Duckworth found, not all drones are responsibly owned or flown, which contributes to at least one of the articles in the companion piece highlighting negative news about drones this week.
- vox.com/new-money/2017/1/11/14241312/tammy-duckworth-drone-safety – A wayward drone almost hit a senator’s plane. Now she’s a drone safety hawk. Vox.com; Timothy B. Lee; 11 January 2017
- bangkokpost.com/news/world/1179008/japan-drone-delivers-soup-to-surfers-in-test-flight – Japan drone delivers soup to surfers in test flight; Bangkok Post; Kyodo News; 12 January 2017
- abc.net.au/news/2017-01-12/northern-territory-drone-muster-birrindudu-station/8177946 – Northern Territory cattle station adopts drone to muster cattle, check fires; ABC Australia; Daniel Fitzgerald, NT Country Hour; 12 January 2017
- arstechnica.com/information-technology/2017/01/dod-successfully-tests-terrifying-swarm-of-104-micro-drones/ – DOD successfully tests terrifying swarm of 104 micro-drones – Arstechnica; Sean Gallagher; 12 January 2017
- latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-sheriffs-drones-20170112-story.html – LA Sheriff’s Department to begin using drones to respond to bomb threats, hostage crises; LA Times; James Queally; 12 January 2017