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Drones in the Skies Over America: A Potential Nightmare in the Making

By       Message Michael Payne       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink

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here come the drones
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The era of drones in America has begun. And it won't be long before we will see the skies over America filled with various types and sizes of remote controlled drones. You'll see them hovering over your neighborhood, your home and almost everywhere you go.

Estimates indicate that at least one million of these drones are expected to be purchased during this Christmas season even though the FAA is still far behind in finalizing essential regulations governing their operation.

Talk about opening a can of worms! Of all the misguided policies and actions taken by this government in recent times its decision to allow the widespread use of drones across America has to be one of the very worst. At a time when this country has a myriad of serious problems plaguing it this government has created yet another.

Yes, without a doubt, these drones are going to be great fun for many Americans. They will be the latest technological toys, a great hobby, something new and exciting to keep people occupied. Millions of dollars will be spent and a variety of new businesses will be created; we'll probably see new billionaires emerge as the brightest techno geniuses take advantage of the great potential that lies with this new and exciting technology.

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It won't be long before you will be able to order products online and then have them delivered by Amazon "Octocopter" drones that will fly packages directly to your doorstep in 30 minutes. Google and Wal-Mart also have plans in the making to do the same by 2017. Is this going to make things better, more efficient and contribute added value to this society? Or will it, rather, be just one more example of technology that no one really needs?

There is a very dangerous aspect involved with this introduction and future proliferation of drones that could well represent a potential nightmare for this county, one that poses a specific danger for the airline industry and the traveling public. The airspace around airports in this country is already quite congested and it takes really good coordination by air traffic controllers to make certain that the highest degree of safety is maintained.

Here's a formula for disaster. Take the normal commercial airline traffic around airports and cities, mix in drones that violate air space, then add in small planes and helicopters used by commercial businesses, traffic reporters, as well as those used by law enforcement and hospitals and just imagine the chaos and catastrophic events that could easily take place. How in the world will air traffic controllers be able to manage this increased congestion in the skies?

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This warning should not be dismissed as some kind of baseless fear because there have already been numerous close encounters between commercial jets and drones. Here's an excerpt from the Washington Post which reports on the many near collisions that have already taken place: "Pilots around the United States have reported a surge in near-collisions and other dangerous encounters with small drones in the past six months, at a time when the Federal Aviation Administration is gradually opening the nation's skies to remotely controlled aircraft, according to FAA records."

"Since June 1, commercial airlines, private pilots and air-traffic controllers have alerted the FAA to at least 25 episodes in which small drones came within a few seconds or a few feet of crashing into much larger aircraft during takeoffs and landings at the nation's busiest airports, presenting a new threat to threat to aviation safety after decades of steady improvement in air travel."

The FAA is said to be in the process of approving thousands of applications for the use of drones but what good is an approval process when we hear that one million or more of them will be purchased during this Christmas season by consumers? Here's an article from Fortune that speaks to the FAA's great concern about these purchases of drones as Christmas gifts. This situation can be thought of as trying to close the door to the barn after the horse has already escaped.

A great danger exists in the fact that this technology appears to be a Godsend for potential domestic terrorists who will be given access to a perfect vehicle to use in carrying out acts of terror within America. Does anyone think that some terrorist is going to follow FAA regulations? And how in the world will anyone be able to spot a potential terrorist-controlled drone when it's a part of many in a given area? Does anyone in this government understand the grave consequences that could follow because of what they have just allowed to happen?

The lack of privacy of Americans, already almost non-existent, will grow even more intrusive. We've had our communications collected and stored by the NSA spying agency and now we are going to see more federal, state and local law enforcement agencies utilize this sophisticated surveillance tool to more closely watch the activities of the American people.

HR 658, the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act was previously passed by both the House and the Senate; it authorizes the use of 30,000 spy drones over America in the coming years. That's evidently how this Congress intends to ramp up the spying process. Is that what this country, once based on its foundation of freedoms, really needs at this time in its history, yet more surveillance?

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This has to be one of the most irresponsible, misguided actions by the federal government in recent history; one that will, undoubtedly, substantially increase the dangers involving air space and the daily activities of Americans.

It's not too late for this government to take immediate actions to put a complete hold on issuing any more licenses to drone operators and to initiate a ban on the sale of all forms of drones. It needs to study this matter in great depth. There may be a need for an expansion of the use of drones in this country for specific, absolutely necessary purposes; but we cannot have a situation where there are no limits to their use and they, therefore, become a menace to the American people, bring danger to our air space, and jeopardize our national security if terrorists get their hands on them.

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Michael Payne is an independent, progressive activist. His writings deal with social, economic, political and foreign policy issues. He is a featured writer on Opednews and Nation of Change and his articles have appeared on many other websites (more...)

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