While drones are popular gadgets, they also pose a considerable risk of harm to airplanes, operators, and the general public.
One of the year’s hottest holiday gifts has the potential to cause significant injury and harm to users and bystanders alike. Drones, remote-controlled flying aircrafts, have graduated from the domain of cute kid toy to serious aircraft.
It is hard to estimate exactly how many drones are out there. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), more than one million drones were sold this holiday season. People love to use them as remote cameras, allowing users to see sights and angles never before possible.
The FAA is primarily interested in drones as they can interfere with aircrafts. Over approximately 18 months, one study counted 327 incidents of drones flying too closely to piloted aircrafts, with 28 of those incidents requiring the pilot to take evasive action to avoid a collision. Although drones are banned from use close to airports, the frequency of these occurrences indicates that the problem is far from solved.
In addition to danger to airplanes, drones pose a significant danger to the general public. Inexperienced users may inadvertently cause the drone to crash, or not realize how limited the battery life truly is. Drones have already caused injuries to unwitting bystanders. In Pasadena, an 11 month old infant was injured by a drone that crashed into the sidewalk, shattering in to shrapnel that cut the infant. The 24-year old operator indicated that he lost control of the aircraft.
The government is attempting to establish regulations to minimize the risk of injury or danger to aircrafts. One suggestion is a registry of all drone owners as well as all drones. Numbering the drones could help determine ownership in case of an accident. However, this would not assist with the issue of drones flying too close to aircrafts, as pilots would be more focused on taking evasive action to prevent a collision than identifying the number on the drone.
A second potential solution is to install an electronic barrier around sensitive areas, such as airports, government buildings, and other “no-fly” zones. While this would help prevent operator error, experts warn that any electronic barriers would be ineffective at keeping out anyone who really wanted to bypass the security.
A final suggestion is a software update. The software could work as an automatic avoidance system, keeping the drone from going into illegal areas, automatically taking evasive action to avoid collisions with people or other aircrafts, and if needed, disabling the drone if it is out of control.
As drone use continues to grow and spread, the potential for injury and harm continues to grow. If you are injured by a drone, contact a personal injury attorney to better understand your rights and your options.