Droning Overhead

DSC_1808It used to be the only things that droned overhead were bombers – Lancasters and B-17’s and the like. Not that I was ever anywhere underneath them, but I’ve seen the movies. I did see a B-36 pass over our house in Spokane, Washington in about 1958 and it was a pretty memorable sight.

Nowadays there are far more things that go whir in the sky. Leaving the military ones aside, we seem to have arrived at a time when civilians can purchase drone helicopters and fly them over us here in the city. I am led to believe that you need to get a license to do this sort of thing, but I am willing to bet that there are fewer licenses sold than drones. It reminds me of the early days of the CB radio craze here in Australia – scofflaw paradise.

Just this week we read a story of a drone crashing into a house in the suburbs and punching down through the tiled roof, rafters, and ceiling into the lounge room. Fortunately the occupants of the house were in the bedroom at the time and just found the wreckage the next morning. That’s quite some drone, to get through that much structure.

It led the police to issue a caution to people using them, considering the potential for damage to property and the danger to persons. I think there is also an underlying warning as well regarding the morality of using them, but no-one really articulates it. I intend to.

I am a photographer – and I support the business and art of photography. I think photographers should, and believe they do, have the right to take innocent pictures untrammelled out in the public areas of the country. Having said that I support the right of people to retain their privacy when they are not in a public area. Or in practical terms – your front footpath is free for observation and record but your enclosed back yard is not. Neither is the interior of your house.

Of course there are also other laws that protect the subjects of a photograph – the defamation laws – the anti-predator regulations – the defence and prisons restrictions. I think these are generally as sensible as can be needed for their purpose and should not be decried needlessly

But there should also be some form of protection from the spying eye – the drone snoop. Here in Western Australia it is hard to get a license for a Mossberg 12 gauge shotgun, so advising people to look down the barrel and lead the target is not helpful – too few will have an opportunity to so do. Arrows are silly, unless they are loosed by a skilled archer and of the medieval bird-shot type. And they are likely to fall down and do damage if they miss the drone.

Electronic defence may be possible but I am not sure if civilians have access to the sorts of devices that will analyse a drone control signal and jam it. A nice thought but probably limited to military or police services.

I can only suggest that the subject of a spying drone should immediately get themselves and an observer into a car and try to follow the thing back to the operator. The little ones cannot carry all that much electrical storage and must necessarily be somewhat limited in their range. If found, suitable remonstrance may be exercised – I should think a stout walking stick or cast-iron frying pan would do the trick. Any echo of protest at the fate of the little spy might be referred to the local magistrate…

Note: I listened to the conversation of two teenage individuals today regarding their use of a drone. They mourned the loss of one that apparently just flew away and never returned. I wonder if someone owns a Mossberg…?

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