Planes, Trains, Automobiles and … Drones
May 13, 2014
There is no saying no to the future
The hullaballoo about an errant drone that nearly collided with a US Airways jet near Tallahassee Regional Airport has the fear-mongers clucking.
Regulators and regular Joes (and Joans) are trying to come to grips with the consequences of a new technology and the clamor is predictable. There are cries to ground all drones, limit flight paths, and insist on licensed operators. The outcry has been amplified by the US Airways pilot’s ominous description of the drone as “a camouflaged F-4 fixed-wing aircraft that was quite small.”
Something bad will happen with a drone. The prognosticators will say it’s only a matter of time before one flies into a crane operator’s cab or drops onto a stroller housing triplets, chewing on baby bagels. These incidents will provide a field-day for headline writers and may even cause CNN to break away from its hunt for the missing Malaysian Airlines plane. But something bad always happens with a new technology. Take planes, trains and automobiles – if not necessarily in that order.
When the first train inaugurated the 35-mile long Liverpool to Manchester railway line in 1830, it did so over the objections and to the despair of the local canal operators. It caused more than despair for a Member of Britain’s Parliament, who made the mistake of stepping into the path of the oncoming train which was rushing along at 24 mph – about 12% of the maximum speed of today’s Beijing to Shanghai express – and became the first person to spread-eagle himself across a row of sleepers. Imagine if the scaremongers had got their way at that point – before drivers had got into the habit of blowing whistles or, more importantly, before all sorts of railway safety mechanisms had been developed such as cambered tracks; signal boxes; articulated carriages; safety brakes; kill switches, electronic brakes and level crossings.
As automobiles appeared, the caterwauling was similar. People were afraid the engines would scare horses and, in Britain, early cars were forbidden to travel faster than 4 mph and were escorted by men carrying flags. The first fatality occurred in 1896 when a laborer’s wife was killed by a vehicle, driven by a man (who, at that point, was not required to hold a license), traveling, according to an eyewitness, “as fast as a horse could gallop.” This, lest it not be obvious, was long before the time of automatic transmissions, safety belts, airbags, collapsible fenders and steering columns, pedestrian crossings, traffic lights, double-yellow lines, crash barriers, drivers licenses’, traffic courts, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the 250 million cars that are registered in the United States.
Nobody who was present when Orville Wright survived the first fatal air crash in 1908 after his plane “came down like a bird shot dead in full flight” could have dreamed that just over one hundred years later Sully Sullenberger would land a twin-jet Airbus A320 down the middle runway of the Hudson River without the loss of any of its 155 passengers and crew. But then again, the 2,000 spectators present when part of the propeller of Wright’s plane disintegrated could also not have imagined a time when almost 100,000 flights a day would take off or when composite fuselage materials, de-icing equipment, pressurized cabins, automatic pilot systems, head-up displays, the FAA, Jeppersen flights plans and the other accouterments of modern aviation would become standard.
Decades from now, drones will be just as much a part of life as trains, airplanes, automobiles, trucks, helicopters, farm tractors, combine harvesters, high-speed ferries and fork-lifts are today.
The adventurous aren’t holding back or waiting for the FAA. Mechanics are using drones to inspect the wings of parked airplanes. Farmers deploy them to inspect their fields and herd cattle. Realtors and videographers use them to shoot video to market properties and film weddings.
And Jeff Bezos’s idea for turning drones into delivery vehicles safely cruising in the uncongested air above cities is highly plausible. Delivery drivers might find this an unlikely prospect, but then again, workers who painted Model Ts would not have dreamed they would be replaced by robots.
Photos: David Rodriguez Martin (top) and FredericRivollier (bottom), both used under a Creative Commons license.
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Vice President at Transcend Technology Inc.
I hate the idea of our airspace being riddled with drones snapping pictures and taking video of everything we do as a “free” society. Does that make me a fear monger or just a sensible person who does enjoy a measure of privacy. Giving up rights in the name of technological advancement is not, nor ever will be, something I sign up for.
Like(58)Reply(10)15 hours ago
Stephanie Beausoleil, Stephen DellAversano, J Muema Kombo, +55
Erin (Johnson) Tomlinson
Financial Advisor/coach, providing financial services, 401k review, risk assessment, and balancing your financial life.
Why would a drone be so interested in you? I’m sure the companies can make money on other things.
Like(1)18 minutes ago
Business Line Manager and Technology Expert
David, Actually I do object to red light cameras and we fight to keep them out of our town and state. Recently our town made the decision to eliminate traffic cameras as an unnecessary invasion of privacy. In some countries, such as France, it is social and legally unacceptable to take pictures of individuals without their permission. That said, I don’t think this is an argument against drones. There is nothing to stop a private pilot or passenger from snapping photos from the air today. The drones decrease the cost of doing so, but they don’t introduce new threats to privacy. I will argue for greater regulation of drones. There should be a limit of where they can fly. Just as a Ham Radio operator has limits on the height of a radio tower to prevent interference with aircraft, aircraft need limitations on proximity so they don’t interfere with privacy and safety. Many new innovations are regulated early to control limited resources. Again, even in the early days of radio, a system of licenses were established to prevent experimenters from interfering with ship to shore communications. The article is misguided. Regulations always came into play with most new transportation technology as they begin to consume share resources. Drones are no different. We are reaching the point where drones are impinging on the flight paths of commercial aircraft. Now is the time to think about prudent regulations and licensing that will encourage innovation and mitigate danger. Otherwise, regulation will be implemented as a knee jerk reaction to a catastrophe. To think otherwise, is just foolish.
Like(4)30 minutes ago
George Gilliam, Angela Mao, Jeff Conrad, +1
Director of Information Technology
The pilot’s report was typical of a news agency selling the lead. This was not a drone; it was a model aircraft. They have been around for decades. They are just using his story (which has been called into question by RC enthusiasts about the elevation) to fear monger. A true UAV/Drone would be remote controlled with video capabilities back to a pilot. The primary mechanism of control is via radio, satellite, and/or video. No line of sight by an operator. You make great points Michael about everything new is scary. 🙂
Like(23)Reply(1)15 hours ago
Ramsey Alvarez, Donna Deventuri, Christopher Nowak, +20
Computer Administrator at Pomeroy IT Solutions
You are correct, it is just news agencies right now are “Drone” happy. If you toss a paper airplane today CNN will send out a news crew to report on the threat. Add to that alarmist people that do not understand the difference rant in the comments section that any two channel piper cub built from a kit is the new “Skynet”.
Like(1)2 hours ago
Global STG Social Communications at IBM – @ragtag
Wow, how to make light of a few hundred people almost getting killed and an airliner full of people missing. To say that all technological inventions are for the good and no one should stand in the way is just as daft as standing in the way of everything, but I think your points above clearly demonstrate that we must learn from the past and take steps not to repeat them. Look at our roads, for example, congested beyond belief and not just one death from a crash, but thousands every year, many young lives snuffed out so we can have get coffee. That’s not to mention the epidemic of other health issues that can be related to society built around cars. People here are saying, so what about CCTV and Google cars, you don’t seem to mind about them? Many people do mind about them. We should be making a noise about how much CCTV we allow in our towns and cities, yet the majority seem to take it with a pinch of salt and carry on – under the pretense that these things make us safer – they don’t. They only attempt to address the symptoms of what are often sick societies, full of inequality. Just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should.
Like(21)Reply(3)5 hours ago
Jeff Conrad, Douglas Pavey (2900+), Susan Doonan Bielski, +18
K Scot Sparks
Painter-Prof., All-Age Mentor & Trumpeter-Producer ::
Yes; the notion that technology-related tragedy is just part of progress is ultimately a matter of begging the question. When we define necessity in terms of ever-maximized “business efficiency,” say, without taking human value seriously, we simply ride rough-shod over reasonable and genuinely urgent concern. Less urgently, do we actually want to further clog the space between culture and nature with, well, crass technical culture – opaquing out the last bits of nature that the urbane might enjoy?
Like14 minutes ago
Regional Manager – Americas
I agree and well put. The lack of privacy or CCTV everywhere in public is not the answer. As you said so well fix the root problem(s) of society (poverty, lack of education, freedom of the market, taxation, welfare, morality etc), and don’t focus on the symptoms like petty crime, and drug use etc.
Like(1)41 minutes ago
Douglas Pavey (2900+)
Computer Scientist, Ph.D., immediately available
“There is no saying no to the future” Yes, but which future? The future is not absolutely predetermined. We can shape it, at least partially. In this regard, we need both, optimism to drive forward, and scepticism, to at least think a little bit about consequences. In U.S., German Angst and the Precautional Principle are not very liked, but such thinking has also driven many good engineering solutions for worst cases the whole world benefits from. I am future-oriented and I would like to use drones for some world improving tasks. However, I would adapt Murphy’s Law to ‘What can be misused, will be misused’. We should be aware of possible negative consequences to start early providing solutions or bans. (No need to point to all the good things possible, enough people will find good ideas.) Timely: First UN meeting on killer robots in Geneva May 13-17 http://www.stopkillerrobots.org/2014/05/ccwun/
Like(11)Reply(1)4 hours ago
Stephen DellAversano, Bianca Eunice Bueno, Andre Van Niekerk, +8
Director at Sabre I.T. Ltd
Wolfgang, I like your viewpoint. In my opinion, what usually lags behind technology is rights of the individual and ethics. I read recently on a Linkedin post that marketing and innovation had changed – in regards to innovation – “if it can be done, it will be done.” and “if you don’t do it, someone else will”. While motivational, these statements need tempering. Just because something can be done, it doesn’t imply that it is OK to do so. As you say, people will always find good ideas and uses for technology. And there will always be those who dream up uses that are shown to be negative and destructive. What is missing are guiding principles that self inhibit or self censure those who contemplate taking actions that result in destruction, not just of property, but of personal freedoms.
Like(7)3 hours ago
Andre Van Niekerk, Douglas Pavey (2900+), Steven Ashcroft, +4
Interesting points, but technology shouldnt run rampant. There has to be a balance. This article goes from one end of the spectrum to the other (false dilemma falacy that oversimplifies the problem). Technology can be very disruptive and drones are the epitome of this. People SHOULD fear drones, because drones ARE scary. We should not become desensitized to scary technology, or we might misuse that technology in scary ways. In fact drones are a good example of technological misuse in some cases (see wikileaks).
Like(11)Reply(1)14 hours ago
Douglas Pavey (2900+), Steven Ashcroft, Tim Mungenast, +8
Human Resources Manager at The Smead Manufacturing Company
It wasn’t a drone.
Like(1)1 hour ago
PhD Student in Social Informatics
Well, just a friendly reminder… the so called “fear-mongers” as Michael here so disrespectfully called everybody with the ability to think critically, are most likely a strong contributing reason why trains and flights and several other tech innovations are safe and sound today. Without a public discussion about how technology should be shaped and utilized, many utopian technologists would have gone astray. Innovation is very seldom a one-man or one-organisation show, rather it is the outcome of influences from a wide range of people and also adapted to legislation. Attributing the cred for successful product development to only tech people is just not working. Especially technology with a political stance, like drones, is a public matter and should off course be discussed in public and with a critical mind. That is not to be afraid of the future, that is to care about the future. But maybe this difference is too difficult to understand…
Like(8)Reply(1)3 hours ago
Douglas Pavey (2900+), Fahim Mojawalla, Andre Van Niekerk, +5
G. Jack Urso
Defense Information Consultant, Educator, Freelance Writer and Editor
Michael Moritz makes a valid point when he asserts that many people are reacting to unmanned aerial vehicle technology out of ignorance of what the technology really is – and comparing people’s reactions to UAV technology to the introduction of other transportation technology is a valid analogy. Considering the current reaction to the recent incident involving a radio-controlled airplane and incorrectly claiming it’s an unmanned aerial vehicle (drone), that proves Moritz’s point to a degree. To inspire fear based on ignorance is the very definition of fear-mongering. I don’t think Moritz is calling against a public discussion, but rather he is trying to add his own thoughts to that public discussion, which heretofore has been dominated in the open press by people with a misunderstanding of what UAV technology is, and considering that most people can’t tell the difference between a RC toy and an actual UAV seems to indicate that Mr. Moritz’s contribution to this public discussion should be welcomed. Discussion goes both ways, right?
Like(1)1 hour ago
Experienced Warehouse Systems Manager, available for immediate interview.
With all the examples you give a set of rules grew with the technology so whilst “ground all drones” is a ridiculous notion, controlled flight paths and operator licensing are probably reasonable and on the way.
Like(8)Reply14 hours ago
Jeff Conrad, Vaughn Rachal, Tim Mungenast, +5
Refrigeration Tech , Diesel Mechanic at Dickinson Fleet Services, LLC
Let us not forget about a MQ1 Predator Drone loosing AGM Hellfire ordinance over the Midwest and eliminating a few houses in a neighborhood here in suburban Indianapolis. Unfortunately, people lost their lives and the thunderous ground shaking roar could be felt and heard 30 miles away from the Richmond Hills subdivision. It violently shook my house 5 miles away. The authorities framed 3 people and said it was natural gas, but at those levels someone would have smelled its disgusting smell. Russian early detection reported an MQ1 Predator drone in the area at that time in Midwest US skies. I cannot confirm their reports, but I can confirm it looked just like a hellfire strike in Pakistan with little collateral damage to surrounding structures. Natural gas would have made it look like PG&E pipeline explosion in Cali. ATF, FBI, and every black suburban was on the scene and the whole neighborhood was roped off. I am just reporting this from facts read online, and also by visiting the scene. Listening to FD dispatch that night, the FD was overwhelmed and was initially sent to LaScala drive and not Richmond Hills, despite the glow over Richmond Hills. Why? This was a tightly packed track home subdivision, and the ground zero was perfect on one house and that off the two adjacent houses. AGM hellfire would do that. A natural gas explosion would have been much more widespread, however this is just theory. Regardless, knowing that pilotless drones zip around overhead with deadly ordinance is too much to worry about, I’m sure there is no default fail safe if communication is cut between drone and drone command center, so it would just crash somewhere? Field? Houses? Daycare? Nursing Home? Church? Elementary school? Gridlocked traffic? Just ground all pilotless aircraft that simple!
Like(6)Reply15 hours ago
Steven Ashcroft, Tim Mungenast, Amy Chapmon-Franz, +3
Broker / Owner
Sure there’s always the fear factor with new devices, but this has nothing to do with the things you mentioned (Realtor’s, map makers, etc) but everything to do with our civil liberties, this is the fear most red blooded Americans have about these Orwellian inventions. This is worse then having your papers in order to cross a border, but has everything to do with infringements on our Civil liberties, or what is left of them. Just as everything can be used for the good of the people, it can always be made to use it for the bad. These things are like turning a vicious guard dog into a family pet. So you go ahead and name all the good these things can be used for; but it only takes one bad and then it’s to late.
Like(6)Reply2 hours ago
Douglas Pavey (2900+), Steven Ashcroft, Tim Mungenast, +3
Frank V.V. Boss Jr
Experienced Director/Filmmaker at Untamed Imagination Productions
This is a very sensitive or becoming sensitive issue! However, I am a proponent and user of drones (quad-copter) for video and film production. Of course it’s new tech and full of limitless potential for us civilians. I feel that and agree to your assessment that we should give innovation our full attention. We should also let current and new “pilots” make drones a future full of possibilities.
Like(5)Reply15 hours ago
Douglas Pavey (2900+), Doug Miner, Scott Nelson, +2
Not shocked but amused by the vast number of you who think your privacy will not be compromised by drones down the road. Wait until the “authorities” feel it is “imperative” to “install” computer chips “for your safety” on your person. Your blind naivete is only exceeded by your mindless belief that governments will tell you the truth….about anything! Moritz’ assertion that drones will be “part of life…as are forklifts now” is so patently absurd it begs the question,….”how many other stupid people are there in this world, who actually think this way?”
Like(4)Reply2 hours ago
Dot Palmer, Steven Ashcroft, Matthew Davis, +1
CEO eCognisant Limited
Whilst the press can be guilty often of blowing things out of proportion – and this may just be a case in point – the real concerns can often be masked by the hyped over-reaction. However legislators, users and engineers of new technology have a duty to remember those two immutable and inextricably linked engineering laws (YES! They ARE separate laws): Murphy’s Law – IF something can go wrong … it WILL … and Sod’s Law – WHEN it goes wrong it will do so invariably in a manner that causes the maximum amount of disruption, carnage, damage, inconvenience, injury … usually several at once, in an otherwise previously inconceivable manner. Substitute or add your own horror noun/s as appropriate. Think Titanic – not simply one, but a whole chain of events actually caused the disaster; any and every single one of which could have been avoided very simply by the RIGHT thought and action processes being applied BEFOREHAND.
Like(4)Reply2 hours ago
Al Abbondanza, Steven Ashcroft, Trish Vidal, +1
Student at Anglia Ruskin University
The most important information that I did not see in this article is not really about the drones, it’s about the operators. Is there some kind of qualification they must have prior to operating one, or is it treated as a model airplane/helicopter? In instances where they will be operating not over fields with no others in the way, I can see no need for a license of sorts, but if it is going to operate within the confines of a city, or other area where people are potentially in danger, is should be treated like a driving license, and therefore require certifications. I agree that there is no need to impede progress of technology, but it must be done safely, and with privacy laws considered as well.
Like(2)Reply(1)8 hours ago
Cynthia Cohen and Flavio Galvagni
Pre-Enrollment Advisor at Hult International Business School
Many of the fields these jets use have a registration/licencing system to make sure the operators are capable of operating them and won’t hurt or damage people or property. There are quite a few clubs around the country, you can see some amazing examples on YouTube. Small propeller driven planes and helicopters up to 1/15 th scale models of jumbo jets with multiple engines.
Like2 hours ago
Social Network Founder, Social Media Conference Speaker, LinkedIn Sales Trainer, Social Media Sales Strategist, Author
Good post. The march of technology continues and nothing will get in its way.
Like(2)Reply3 hours ago
Carl Goosen and Marc Zazeela
MSc BTech MIET, Graduate Engineer and Graduate Committee Chair at Bombardier Transportation
Am I the only one that is looking forward to the days when drones are flying around?
Like(2)Reply3 hours ago
G. Jack Urso and Carl Goosen
David Jackson MCIPD
Associate Director, HR Business Solutions at Manchester Metropolitan University
The worrying thing here isn’t the development of drones or of the kinds of accidents that the author uses as examples. The danger is that the technology will be developed at huge expense which means those with deep pockets will have enormous influence over that development. Some of those players will be retailers like Amazon but are more likely to be governments who will focus on the military and surveillance opportunities. For more evidence of the likelihood of this look at the development of robotics in the US and other countries. We need to use our collective influence to move this work towards healthcare, search and rescue, disaster relief etc.
Like(2)Reply(1)5 hours ago
Tim Mungenast and Karl Roche
David Jackson MCIPD
Associate Director, HR Business Solutions at Manchester Metropolitan University
For those unfamiliar with the example given: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=cNZPRsrwumQ
Like5 hours ago
Supply Chain Professional
So I guess the message of this article is that we should not learn from the mistakes of the path where corporations rush technology to market at the expense of the safety of the people and just wait for fatalities to occur that will force the government to create safety regulations. I think you forget that all those advancements in safety for planes, trains & automobiles had to be forced down corporations throats, they wouldn’t make them standard willingly.
Like(2)Reply2 hours ago
Matthew Davis and Carl Goosen
Workforce Planner at South African Revenue Services
Since there are these drones (legal/illegal) unlicensed etc…why can’t the government then use these drones to search for abducted girls in Nigeria. it makes sense, as they aren’t easily detected so the world can sleep in peace. #BringBackOurGirls
Like(2)Reply4 hours ago
Matthew Davis and Carl Goosen
Airship Photog/Pilot, Maker, Foster Parent
Thank you for some sanity. What happened to people who looked at something and thought… hey, how can we make this work? Instead we get naysayers & Chicken Little’s who… if they try, then they build a gilded cage around whats new and tell themselves its freedom & progress.
Like(2)Reply1 hour ago
Ethan Baugher and Brian Wilson
Refrigeration Tech , Diesel Mechanic at Dickinson Fleet Services, LLC
You don’t get it, pilotless flight might as well be going down interstate 95 intoxicated on ,”lean,” blindfolded in an 18 wheeler at 100mph. Until you have good rules and safety devices if control communications are cut this might as well be a kamikaze craft. It doesn’t matter on size, what if one flew into the intake of a Delta 777 engine on takeoff?? Pilotless craft or drones must have immediate regulations just as they regulate firearms, even in trained hands accidents happen. Look what happened when a pilot ejected from his USAF A-7D Corsair 69-6207 10/20/87 in Indianapolis, it went pilotless right into the Ramada Inn and killer people! Drones and their operators can fail too
Like(2)Reply(1)14 hours ago
Tim Mungenast and Flavio Galvagni
Richard Greg, ASA
Project Manager at American Appraisal Associates
I agree with the good rules and safety devices tailored to drone operations. I am a pilot and if these aircraft are operating in the same airspace-they should be subject, at minimum, to the same certifications and airspace regulations of any other aircraft. The point of one flying into the intake of a 777 engine could be taken to the next level, In the wrong hands, a drone could be used for a number of unthinkable missions-something that really needs to be scrutinized!! Drones will certainly be a part of the future and there are many benefits to realized in using them-lets hope we can learn from past mistakes of technology and plan wisely for their future.
Like15 minutes ago
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