Dear drone industry,
Enough is enough. You MUST do a better job. NOW. Do it before someone brings down an airliner with a drone.
With seemingly daily incidents involving drones as they become more prevalent and less-expensive, it's time the drone industry steps up, is more proactive and does a better job of educating its customers while mitigating potential disasters to the extent it can.
On my show, the Lens Shark Photography Podcast, it seems like I'm reporting on the foolishness of irresponsible drone owners weekly. They're the exception, not the rule, but these bad apples will spoil things for those who operate their drones responsibly.
I believe in personal responsibility, but clearly many have more money than sense and cannot handle the responsibilities which come with owning a drone.
Just because you can...doesn't mean you should.
Many have missed that message though. It's within your power to help educate your customers and do your part before government steps in with more stringent regulations...especially if someone brings down an plane.
On Friday, July 31, 2015, two commercial airliners came dangerously close to a drone strike near New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. JetBlue Flight 1843, upon approach to the airport, came just 100 feet or so from a drone flying at an altitude of 900 feet. A little over two hours later at JFK, another flight came close to a drone.
Clearly, some drone owners think that's appropriate use of your drones. It is not.
When (not if) a drone brings down an airliner, there will be calls for stiff regulations of your industry as hundreds would die senselessly. Do something NOW while you still can.
Here in the U.S., the FAA reports there being hundreds of incidents involving drones flying dangerously close to aircraft each year and that's just in the U.S. This is a massive problem and a disaster waiting to happen.
Also in July, 2015, 5 drones were spotted flying over and around a fire in Cajon Pass in California causing emergency personnel to ground firefighting aircraft out of concern for the crews and their aircraft. As a result, the fire grew larger than it should have. Due to this incident, California lawmakers want to give emergency personnel the right to knock your drones out of the sky. Cynics will say you're ok with that as you'll sell more drones, but moving a handful more drones a year isn't worth the additional bad press drones will get...and nothing is worth the loss of life.
Irresponsible drone owners will cause deaths and loss of property. Why? So they can get aerial footage? It's not worth lives!
So, drone industry, what can you do?
I think it would be wise to include something along the lines of a bright orange or yellow warning notice in each drone box which would be impossible to miss. Much as I have at right. On it, warn drone operators about flying around airports, government buildings, landmarks and other buildings which they have no business flying over and around.
Warn them that they'll be arrested if they fly their drone near an airport and aircraft. STRONGLY caution them against this. Explain to them that a drone CAN bring down an airliner and if that happens, they'll have the blood of hundreds on their hands, they'll be arrested and they'll likely spend their life in prison.
Drone operators risk lives and their own freedom just so they can get beautiful video near an airport. It's pointless. The moment they post the video online or attempt to sell it as stock video footage, they'll face investigation and arrest. So it's a pointless exercise, unnecessarily risking lives. In addition to an impossible to miss warning sheet, it wouldn't hurt to direct your customers to the url of a website with videos explaining all of this in no uncertain terms. When a drone crashed on the lawn at the White House January 6, 2015, firmware was pushed out creating a no fly zone. All should be done to make it impossible to fly within 5 miles of airports and an appropriate distance around government buildings and other important structures. Drone industry, if you truly value your business and your customers, please DO MORE to give them the information they need before they a) take down a commercial jetliner with hundreds on board, b) send themselves to prison for life and c) enrage the public who WILL demand extremely stringent regulations or perhaps an outright ban on drones. Do this before a horrific tragedy happens. Mike "Sharky" James Photojournalist Host, Lens Shark Photography Podcast (LensShark.com)
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