Like it or not military drones have been in our skies for quite some time now. Also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), drones are controlled remotely by computer or pilot.
Given our hunger for nano gizmos, the invasion of small personal (aka domestic) drones was just a matter of time, with prices diving below $100 in the last year and sizes ranging from 5 inches to 4 or 5 feet wide. Features include WiFi networking for “smart” device control, high-powered cameras with video feed, microphones, and other techy tools.
Tuesday, September 3, a personal drone buzzed over Winslow around 1 p.m., startling Bainbridge Island resident Becca Hanson as she walked back to work toward Madrona Way and terrifying her large Springer Spaniel Freckles:
“Freckles and I were out for a walk and just coming back through the Trailer Park when she suddenly looked up at the sky (something that she never does). A drone was over head maybe 100 feet off of the ground. It sounded like a distant wasp, and she freaked—ran into the yard of one of the trailers and inside a utilities closet where the owner and a plumber were working in tight formation. If she hadn’t been so scared, it would have been hilarious to see everyone trying to figure out what was going on and extricate themselves! I had a terrible time trying to get her out to get her back to the office but we made it at a dead run,” said Hanson.
Hanson described the drone as being cross-shaped with four arms with rotors at each end. She observed it hover over the trailer park and then head toward downtown Winslow.
Personal and commercial drone use, which is expected to explode in the next few years, is relatively unregulated. The FAA prohibits them from flying above 400 feet, but citizen privacy protections remain vague at best, and many worry about privacy infringement by both private parties and law enforcement agencies, which have been known to equip drones with tear gas and tasers as well as spying devices.
Civil liberties organizations are working to educate the public, and many communities are considering banning or regulating domestic drone use but thus far few have acted. One of the first cities to regulate drones, Evanston, Illinois, bordering Chicago, passed a resolution in May against the use of unmanned drones for warrantless surveillance, but “recreational” use remains up for grabs.
Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.