Drone notes: To regulate or not to regulate …

by Todd Jones ([email protected]) 111 views 

To regulate drones or not to regulate drones. Many have called for more regulation of drones and two large media companies have penned opinions as to why there should be regulation.

Gail Collins from the New York Times took the regulation approach. She believes they can be a problem if not regulated.

“I think I speak for all of us when I say that we do not want to get in between a child and his ToyJoy F8 Space Trek RC Nano Drone. But it’s absolutely crazy that the bigger ones — the ones capable of flying in the same airspace as a helicopter or dropping a mystery package on a nuclear power plant — aren’t being licensed and strictly regulated.”

She continues: “Every day there seems to be a new story. A drone flew over the Oklahoma State Penitentiary this week, carrying a bundle of drugs and hacksaw blades dangling from a fishing line. Fortunately, it crashed before any inmates could grab the loot. Meanwhile, a drone flew into power lines in West Hollywood and knocked one to the ground, leaving about 700 customers without electricity.”

Also taking the regulation side of the argument is the Washington Post editorial board. They seem to think registering drones is minimum that should be done. About registration, they argue: “The FAA’s registration system might help — a bit. Registration, which owners of new and existing drones will have to submit to, will enable investigators to identify the owners of drones that crash, which will help them enforce the regulations that too many recreational operators flout. Regulators also hope that forcing owners to register will improve awareness of and voluntary compliance with the rules: Owners will know what the regulations are and feel more exposed to scrutiny if they mess up.”

They continue: “Yet this is just the bare minimum the government should be doing, and it has taken far too long to get even here. Drones should be required to carry transponders that are difficult to deactivate so that they can be seen as they enter restricted airspace and so that investigators can easily identify owners. They should also be required to carry “geo-fencing” technology that renders drones incapable of flying where they are not supposed to go. These sorts of upgrades will make some UAVs more expensive. They may also require an act of Congress. But they are worth the cost and effort.”

Not so fast. Matt Waite, professor of practice at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications, asks everyone just to calm down a bit about drones. The founder of the Drone Journalism Lab, Waite discusses the use of technology and innovation and the perceptions of innovation and privacy in his recent TEDxLincoln talk. (See the video below.)

This debate is sure to be far from over. And the debate may involve a well-known Arkansas company. Talk Business & Politics writer Kim Souza reported that Wal-Mart recently asked the Federal Aviation Administration for an exemption to test drones for home deliveries and distribution centers.

According to Souza’s article, the retailer said it has been testing drones within its cavernous distribution centers, but moving the devices outdoors requires FAA approval. The request to test “unmanned aircraft systems” (UAS) follows in the footsteps of Google and Amazon.”