Multiple emerging technologies pose significant changes to the status quo, and many of these also pose significant potential dangers. The Internet of Things (IoT) can track our every move. Autonomous driving can lead to crackers cutting off our brakes. Robotics can steal our jobs and turn on us. It’s scary.
Another scary new technology is drones. Thousands and thousands of them are in the sky. They clearly pose a threat to commercial aviation. Computerworld says that a recent incident, in which a horrific collision between a drone and a Lufthansa flight landing at Los Angeles International Airport was barely averted, could galvanize legislators to more aggressively look at drone safety.
The subject is not new to legislators. Last year, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced the Consumer Drone Safety Act. She used the Lufthansa near-miss, which occurred on March 18, to urge its passing this session:
The bill would, among other things, direct the Federal Aviation Administration to require safety features for newly manufactured consumer drones, such as geofencing to govern the altitude and location of flights and collision-avoidance software. The provisions in the legislation were incorporated into the FAA reauthorization bill, which is expected to be debated on the Senate floor next month, Feinstein added.
Drone sightings by pilots are growing, from 238 in 2014 to more than 650 in the first seven months of last year, according to numbers released last August by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Though Congressional action has not gained traction, the FAA has put some regulations in place. The website for WUFT, which supports radio and television stations in central Florida, says that rules were enacted last month to require registration of drones and display of their registration numbers. Drones cannot surpass an altitude of 400 feet or be used within five miles of an airport. Penalties for not doing so can reach $250,000, according to the story.
Indeed, the new FAA regulations and anything subsequently passed in Congress will run into a familiar challenge: The tension between state and federal law. A story at Campus Security makes the point that state laws vary greatly. That’s a recipe for trouble, since many organizations will use drones in multiple states:
The Senate measure would explicitly give FAA supremacy over all drones laws, Rule said. That would give companies like Amazon, Google and Walmart a one-stop shop for their drone-delivery proposals. But that would also block local governments from adopting measures prohibiting encroachment on private property similar to zoning laws, he said.
We have a lot to be afraid of in modern technology, and drones are high up on the list. Let’s hope federal and state legislators can cooperate to take the dangers down a notch.
Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.