Drones can be bad too – here’s why

After the last article about how drones can be a force for good, the downside is that drones can be bad too.

Unfortunately, not all drones are handled responsibly, nor are they used for peaceful missions. Despite the number of positive uses, and the responsible owners/controllers of these machines, there have also been some rather high profile examples of ill-advised use of drones.

For instance, there have been several cases recently of drones being impounded after breaking laws or infringing no-fly zones.

Crash-landings for overflying ill-advised areas

Several have crash landed on the White House lawn in the last year alone. Trackimo reports on an incident in July 2016[1] and adds that this was the third incident in the last twelve months, despite a Federal ban on unmanned aircraft overflying the area dating from the 9/11 attacks. The owner was charged with illegally flying the drone, with which he was trying to photograph the Washington Monument from the air. The use of electromagnetic waves and radio disruption is either already in use or being considered in order to prevent drones being flown in certain sensitive areas in both America and the UK.

Another drone was shot down by an infuriated American who was fed up with it buzzing around his house and allowing his neighbours to snoop on his activities[2].

A third was impounded after being radar jammed while flying near Barrow-in-Furness nuclear testing facility in England. The owner, protesting about the damage caused to his £1,000 gadget, was charged with dangerously flying a drone. He now has the dubious distinction of being the first person charged with the offence in the United Kingdom[3].

Flying drugs into prison

In addition, drones are seemingly routinely used to fly contraband, including drugs and mobile phones, into prisons[4]. Online footage shows this method of distribution being used to deliver drugs to Pentonville, Wandsworth and many US prisons.

Drones with claws?!

There is even a drone with claws now, apparently designed to be able to lift anything up to the weight of a garden chair. The article confirming its existence has pet owners fearing for their cats, rabbits and small dogs[5]. This is not something out of your worst nightmare, honest…

Drones as bargaining chips between nations

In recent news, China has accused the US of “hyping-up” an incident in which its navy seized a US underwater drone in international waters in the South China Sea[6]. The unmanned aerial vehicle has now apparently been returned to American hands, but not without some delay. Ownership of certain areas of the South China Sea is disputed, with several nations asserting their right to the area and any islands within it.

It can’t be long before the first court case brought by a celebrity alleging violation of privacy by a drone, surely? The video and digital cameras on board provide high quality footage and stills which the paparazzi would love. There are already companies which provide drone detection technology to combat malicious or willful operation of a drone in restricted areas; their customers are generally organisations such as prisons, airports and military facilities. But as with almost everything, where there is a use for something, there is almost always an abuse to counter it.
References:

  1. Drone Crash-Lands on the White House Lawn – trackimo.com, author given as ‘Ben’, 6 July, 2016, trackimo.com/drone-crash-lands-on-white-house-lawn/
  2. Kentucky Man Arrested After Shooting Down Neighbor’s Drone – NBC News, Lauren Prince, August 1, 2015, nbcnews.com/news/us-news/not-my-backyard-man-arrested-after-shooting-drone-down-n402271
  3. UK’s first drone conviction will bankrupt me, says Cumbrian man – The Guardian UK,  Charles Arthur, 2 April 2014, theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/02/uk-first-drone-conviction
  4. Man jailed for using drone to fly drugs into prisons – The Guardian UK, Press Association, 21 July 2016, theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/jul/21/man-jailed-for-using-drone-to-fly-drugs-into-prisons
  5. Terrifying new drone has robotic claws – The Guardian UK, source: Prodrone, 13 September 2016, theguardian.com/technology/video/2016/sep/13/terrifying-new-drone-has-robotic-claws-video
  6. China accuses US of ‘hyping-up’ seizure of underwater drone – BBC.co.uk, no author given, 17 December 2016, bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-38350826

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