I’ve spent about two weeks now, including the five days I recently spent in the hospital, working on my next post about God, faith, and infinity. Those posts are significantly harder to write not only because the topic is deeply important to me, but also because it’s important I communicate the message as clearly as possible. My hope had been to complete that tonight and post it but instead, I’m going to talk about idiots.
In the days since I was on King 5 Seattle recently sharing some limited information on drones (https://projectstickynote.com/2015/10/28/king-5-news-drone-coverage/), I’ve been asked and have answered quite a few questions about owning a drone, flying a drone, what one needs to learn, etc. I’ve also done a ton of research, stayed abreast of the news developments and governmental and FAA conversations about regulations, and most importantly, continued to practice, self educate, and improve my skill.
As with any skill, practice flying a drone makes you better but unlike the old adage “practice makes perfect” you are never perfect. Combining the environment, technology, machines, GPS and radio signals, human control, and things like wind and topography are never going to result in 100% flawless execution.
Responsible owners will do what is right: chose safer situations and continue to challenge themselves but only where their skill and capability is commensurate with the challenge they are undertaking, and will very carefully consider risk especially when it comes to the safety of others. We will do a calibration and maintenance check each and every time we fly, tick off our pre-flight checklist much as any pilot would, and become proficient at calling audibles when conditions change. We won’t drink and drone.
Idiots will do what idiots have done for time immemorial — ruin things for the rest of us.
Yesterday, there was a drone incursion on Seattle’s Great Wheel which you can read more about here. I choose the word incursion here very carefully and deliberately. Regardless of size, payload, or any other factor, no one should have been flying close to the Seattle Wheel and if conditions were causing a malfunction, the pilot should have immediately triggered the failsafe mode automation. If a crash still occurred, the pilot should have walked over and claimed their drone and dealt with the appropriate next steps.
What occurred was a hit and run. One that did not result in any injury, did result in property damage, and should be met with the appropriate ramifications.
Strangely, and I must take accountability myself…not for this, but for my own history of learning. The first day I flew my drone several months ago, I accidentally crash landed it on the property of an apartment building. It was a pure accident and I did exactly what one should do in such a situation: try to contact the person who I saw retrieve the drone, contact the property manager, take accountability, and if it worked out, retrieve my drone. My repeated attempts to contact anyone involved resulted in zero contact.
I spent another $1500 on another drone which I have cared for since. That’s not to say I haven’t had situations which remind me I need practice; but those reminders serve as helpful checkpoints about my responsibility. I do my best to be a responsible owner, operator, educator, and advocate; believe it or not, this is what the vast majority of the drone owners are also committed to and we’ll probably spend some time doubling down on making sure that’s clear to those that might have a different opinion.
Thousands of drone flights take place every day — safe, controlled, planned and thoughtful flights that expand our perspective and don’t even come close to causing any destruction or discomfort. These same flights capture beautiful footage and explore history in new ways like this beautiful film about Chernobyl. It’s important to remember that as we navigate this transition.
Drones can and are an important creative and exploratory tool, opening up a new perspectives and democratization access to those perspectives to people who could never have taken part in this amazing learning opportunity. We should have some regulation, better tracking and enforcement; we should absolutely avoid regulation which addresses the idiots and perpetrators of the world. We should enable the possible versus restrict the capability. We shouldn’t let edge cases dictate next steps.
We must remember the idiot and perpetrator are the guilty ones, not the technology. If it wasn’t a drone, it would be something else. Remember when cordless phones came out and people were tapping in to conversations because of the ineffective scrambling protocols and “cordless phones” became an evil technology? Remember when video games caused adolescent violence?
I hope to see a day where we are excited about this new technology, educating new owners to prevent any forays in to idiotic behavior, and when there are un-saveable idiots who can’t be taught, that we hold them accountable.