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Drones dangerous in the wrong hands

Feds must move slowly on approving crafts

By The Mercury

Wouldn’t it be neat to have Amazon deliver an order right to your front door via drone?

Sounds cool, and Jeff Bezos, CEO of the world’s largest Internet retailer, recently announced on national TV that Amazon has every intention of using drone technology as soon as it’s feasible.

On the other hand, how would you like to wake up one morning and see an unmarked drone hovering outside your window — with a camera perhaps peering straight in at your Donald Duck pajamas?

What most people know about drones comes from reading or hearing about their military application; namely, the United States sending an unmanned aircraft off to bomb the house of some suspected terrorist in Pakistan.

The reality is that drones are not merely the frightening weapons that we see on TV blowing up some bad guy in the Middle East. Nor are they simple little delivery devices like the ones Bezos predicts Amazon will be zipping over to your house in “four or five years.”

The truth is that, like any new and developing technology, drones could turn out to be either useful or awful — depending on who’s using them, and for what reason.

One thing is fairly certain, though: We’re not likely to see the sky filled with buzzing drones anytime soon.

At least not in this country.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is perhaps the slowest-moving of all government agencies, and any drone larger than a toy used by model geeks falls under its jurisdiction.

Congress has mandated that the FAA have rules and a regulatory structure in place for UAS (unmanned aerial systems) by 2015, but every indication is that the deadline will come and go without, say, Amazon’s “Prime Air” achieving lift-off.

There are just too many problems.

Frankly, going slow with drones might not be a bad thing. For all of the really handy uses you can imagine for a little aircraft whizzing around under your control, there are plenty of nightmare scenarios as well.

Imagine a drone in the hands of someone who wishes to do us serious harm, for instance.

It’s not a pleasant thought.

Even the practice of law enforcement or other authorized agencies using drones for surveillance will have to be monitored very, very carefully.

One man’s surveillance is another man’s spying — and the line is frighteningly easy to cross, as we’ve learned from the NSA scandal.

Bezos, though, achieved a couple of things with his breathless demonstration on “60 Minutes” — he gave Amazon stock a healthy shot in the arm, for a start.

But he also made a lot of people stop and wonder what a world full of drones, operated by just about anyone, really might be like.




This is one instance where we suspect a slow, almost tedious, approach by a government agency might not be such a bad thing at all. Let’s give the FAA plenty of time to think things through.

We need time to change out of our Donald Duck pajamas, at least.

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