Today I met with the head videographer of Washington State University Communications. WSU Comm is the department that churns out most of the digital media used on WSU websites. The point of the meeting was to share a bit of background information about my company, and to discuss the idea of contract work once I establish the company a little bit more. When we started talking, apart from being enthused about the new drone industry and the possibilities for my company, we also discussed the more conflicted side of the drone industry at the moment.
Drones are still a very new thing to the public eye, and thanks to the media’s portrayal of drones being used primarily by the military to strike and spy on our enemies, there are lot of bystanders out there that are concerned with their privacy. They think that drones are going to be used for spying and peering into your neighbors houses.
To add to the misconception, a lot of people haven’t seen the positive things that have already come out of unmanned aerial vehicles. Drones have seen action with fire departments in California, finding them useful for getting in close to a fire to more successfully prepare their fire fighting tactics. They have also been used to deliver support packages to victims of natural disasters, and they have been used for agriculture in other countries for decades already.
Some skeptics could agree that a creepy man with a camera with a strong telephoto lens could do just as much spying as a drone could, and even in a more stealthy manner, because these drones are not quiet… So in terms of privacy, I think that the naysayers are really just having a hard time adapting to this piece of change, when in reality, it’s no more invasive than current spying techniques.
The next area of worry is in liability. These drones have spinning props that are powerful enough to break skin on contact, and in some cases more damage can occur. However, no big accidents have occurred yet, making the spotlight for first one a bit bigger. For an example of a tragic drone accident, let’s use a music festival. There are thousands of people in one condensed area, and if a drone was taking video from above and somehow crashed into that crowd, there could be several injuries. That indeed would be very bad, and a terrible nightmare of that drone owner. However, as a smart drone owner should do, you would never fly the thing around people unless you were 100% confident in your flying abilities and the state of the drone itself. Also, what some people don’t realize is that the bigger the drone, the safer it can be. With more props, a drone can stabilize itself even if one, two, or even three props are broken, at least to the point where you could initiate an emergency landing. Also, with more sophisticated drones, failsafe modes are much more prevalent, and there are already more pre-flight precautions that the pilots take. Automated flight is another aspect that is being worked on, so much to the point where you may one day soon be able to plot out points on a satellite map image and your drone would autonomously take off, fly to those points, and then return safely to the designated landing point. Furthermore, The computers aboard these drones are smart enough to tell whether the drone needs to be landed, and with the use of GPS some drones can sense the need to land, then fly back to it’s original take off point, and safely land itself.
There is so much science involved with these that you could go on for days describing what each component does and how it does it. However, that isn’t the point of this blog post. I just wanted to share my thoughts on the drone industry where it currently stands and address both sides of the battle right now.
In my hopes, I really want drones to be able to be used for commercial use, and I believe that the drone market has a lot of promising products that can ensure the public’s safety. In the area of privacy, if you think you are being spied on by a drone, you can always call 911 as any other instance where you think you may be in danger…or wait about 10 minutes and follow the drone back to it’s owner, because that’s about all the time these batteries last.
The FAA is currently at work to clear up the grey area in the drone industry, as there are really no governing laws other than what already exists for hobbyists. I will be staying up to date with the headway they make, and keep you all updated.
I am advocating the use of drones for professional media services, to enhance the world that we live in by offering a unique perspective. I am not advocating the use of drones for surveillance whatsoever, and would be devastated to have that be the reputation of drones as they come into the mainstream. Until these drone laws are created, my company is going to do everything we can to stay on the right side of the law, but at the same time, produce the products that we have been dreaming of. Let me know what you think about the issue! Thanks.