I am good at menacing. I do it every time I can find an innocent person who is in no position to defend themselves. There are plenty of these about – they work in retail shops. If I have five cents in my pocket I can go and browbeat them, traduce them, and terrify them with threats of exposure on Travelguide, YouTube, and Choice magazine. Or I can buy five cents worth of sweets and bugger off.
Some days it is a close run decision.
The drone menace, on the other hand, is less clear-cut. It would appear to have several aspects:
a. The drones may fall upon people and injure them. Quite apart from the physical weight of the things – which can be considerable if they are larger commercial jobs – they have anything up to eight flailing propellers working at high speed like knives in an abattoir. It’s not just the dropping on people that is dangerous – swishing through the crowd sideways may be horrifyingly worse.
If this is an inadvertent thing – failure of control or bad flying – it is one thing, but what it if were deliberate? We’ve seen people drive into crowds with murder in their hearts before.
b. The drones may be modified to carry destructive payloads. They need not drop themselves into a crowd if they can be rigged to drop something else. You can make up your own list of frightfulness that might be precipitated on others.*
c. The drones may interfere with other aircraft in the air…or even on the ground if they are operated within airports. We’re told that there are automatic controls that prohibit this in signals sent by the manufacturers via internet to the drones. From China. Now there’s foolproof, if ever I’ve heard it.
d. The drones may interfere with essential public services like firefighting by flying where aerial tankers are in operation. This has apparently happened.
e. The drones may intrude into secret governmental and military areas. Again we are told that there are controls in place to stop this…here I am inclined to have more faith. I’ll bet the SAS would love to open up on a drone over Campbell Barracks, and perhaps they have already. We’ll never know.
f. Drones may be used to snoop and spy on commercial properties for commercial or governmental purposes. Someone has already suggested council surveillance of blocks in rural areas to spy on people erecting sheds without permission. It sounds just petty enough to be true.
g. Drones may be used to snoop and spy on private matters for private delectation and troublemaking. Leading to private defence and public nuisance. What price privacy and good order?
h. Drones might be used to disrupt and harass legitimate events – sporting venues, religious ceremonies, weddings, civic affairs. Political parties could be targeted by their rivals.
Some of these troubles may be fended off already by technical means. Others might be circumscribed by the law but the fact of the matter is that at the moment of the offence any obedience to law would still rest with the person running the drone…and they might be willing to do it at any risk. There are already enough people who commit offences in all other divisions of law despite clearer sanctions and a history of enforcement. The drone situation is still very much in the ” hold my beer ” stage.
*Naturally I exclude the Air Force and Army drones that drop Hellfire missiles and 30mm cannon shells on people. These are perfectly all right.