The Drones – Part Five – The Innocents

Want to know how to get in trouble with four different levels of government at one time in the comfort of your own suburb?

Buy a balsawood airplane kit, build it, wind the rubber band motor inside it, and let it go on the school oval at 4:30 on Saturday afternoon. No matter how deserted the suburb is, before that propellor stops turning and the thing starts to glide into the bushes you will have the school principal, the council ranger, the local police sergeant, and the deputy head of CASA chasing you across the oval. You have offended local, state, and commonwealth rules – mostly by trying to have fun. Don’t be angry at the bureaucrats – they live for this sort of thing.

That’s a $ 29 Guillows kit – imagine how much trouble you can get into with a $2000 electric drone.

And therein lies the sad tale of our society. Logic would say that the open oval would be the perfect place for a youngster to fly the toy airplane or drone he gets for Christmas. But government in all its forms says not, and I’ll bet that they will be running kids and their parents off the ovals all over Australia on Boxing Day. And the kids will be trying to fly from the streets and backyards and crashing, intruding, and losing their Christmas presents all over the place.

Oh, someone will come out with a solution – a sand paddock 50 kilometres outside Perth where they can purchase temporary permission to fly the drones for ten-minute periods ( book your ten minutes by filling in a form at the shire office between 9:00 and 5:00 and have your $ 20 ready ) before being turned off again. There will be a Shire Drone Flying Officer and he will be a serious man.

Is it any wonder that the hobby of drone racing has stalled? Is it any wonder that kids are not building R/C aircraft?

Bring back innocent fun, and take away the impetus for the other sort.

 

 

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The Drones – Part Four – The Right To Self Defence

Pshaw!

What right? You hardly have it if you are attacked by robbers or murderers – if the cops can punish you for protecting yourself in your own home, how do you hope to establish a right to do it when pestered by someone flying a drone?

Still, if there are no legal means to protect yourself from surveillance, intrusion, and harm that at least clarifies the situation somewhat, what? What?

a. The drone has to start from somewhere, and the programs that control a lot of their flight have provisions to return the thing to the point where it took off from. Whether this is done by memory or GPS I don’t know, but I have seen it in operation and I know it is not dependant upon a lot of light. The drone can pitch off and return in semi-darkness.

There are lights on the drones that are put there to aid the flyer orientate themselves – if they are turned on they can also help the drone-hunter to follow the aircraft back to base. In most cases this will be very close to the pilot flying it.

b. Attacking people is illegal. To do it legally you need to be a member of the Police Service or the armed forces in receipt of a legitimate order through the proper chain of command. Most people will not be in this situation.

Attacking drones is also illegal, but on a lower scale of offence. If you are going to baseball bat something, bat the drone. It’s still wrong, but it’ll play better in front of the magistrate.

c. Attacking the drone while it is in the air over your property is also probably illegal – ( Hell, everything is illegal in Australia ) – but particularly illegal if you discharge a firearm at it. Resist the temptation to loose off with the 12 gauge.

You may reflect, however, that ancient and medieval people shot fowls out of the air by various means long before gunpowder was invented. There are illustrations in textbooks of the methods which they adopted – and in many cases they were quite quiet affairs. I should avoid crossbows for legal reasons.

Side note: the Swiss or French police seem to be training birds of prey to attack drones to protect sensitive installations. They are, of course, free within their own countries to do as they see fit.

d. The drone flies on a radio signal from the controller. Interfere with this signal and the drone reverts to that return-to-base mode.

e. Drone flyers who use them to spy do so for a number of reasons, but the chief one is that they are smartarses. This character trait invariably means that they are also going to give themselves away by bragging locally or by posting their feats on the internet… Capitalise upon this flaw – make careful enquiries and keep diligent watch. You will eventually find them.

Smartarses also offend repeatedly – because it boosts their ego to bully and menace. If you’ve been pestered once, prepare for the next incursion in whatever way you feel best, knowing that your vigilance will be rewarded.

f. Drones do not fly forever. Their propellers break and their batteries lose capacity and their radio systems go out of tune. This will remove some of them from the scene quickly, and the cost of replacement will mean that they do not return. The expensive ones will require repair too, and here is where you enter the system. Make contact with the repair facility and pay for the names and addresses of their clients. Pay well – information is valuable.

 

The Drones – Part Three – The Right To Menace

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.

 

 

 

 

The Drones – Part Two – The Right To Hide Vs The Right To Spy

I am unsettled by the concept of legal rights. Oh, I like ’em when they make my life freer and easier and protect me from tyranny. I treasure my copy of Tom Paine’s Rights Of Man, as well as a red cap and a pike on which to exhibit aristocrat’s heads. The guillotining has stopped for the present but I am ready when it starts up again. In the meantime I have my knitting…

But I am not at all sure about the business of rights in the flying of electric drone aircraft – and it bothers me because the shop that I write weblog columns for sells a number of them. I am unsure exactly what to think.

It has been suggested to me that I am the king of my domestic castle and should hold the sole right of privacy within my property. Hah. I have a wife, daughter, and Siamese cat, and have a more realistic idea of my royal position… But I am still apparently to be guaranteed complete privacy within my Hardies Super Sixdom – my back yard should be inviolate and I have been told that I should be free to sunbake nude there all year-long provided I cannot be seen from the footpath.

A delightful prospect. Particularly in the July rains. I shall prepare myself accordingly.

But what if my neighbour puts up a stepladder against the side of his fence and peers in at me while I lie there. What right have I then? What right he…or she? What is the law that keeps them off the stepladder, legitimately trimming their mango trees? Or cleaning the gutters or painting the roof? What law, indeed, prohibits them from sitting on the roof at any time that they choose? Provided they sit quietly and don’t pelt passers-by with mangoes, they would seem to be legitimately – if eccentrically – in possession of their own property and free to sit on that roof.

And I free to sit on mine.

Clothed?

The Drones – Part One – Hovering For All

I noted a passing reference on Facebook to laws restricting drone operation here in Australia for private operators. I’m not going to say the Facebook posting was sensational and inaccurate – because that sort of thing would be hard to believe of Facebook… but it certainly did stir up a conversation about drone flying. The conversation went on to include other uses of surveillance cameras in our lives.

I have only encountered drones on two or three occasions – in all cases being used for recreational purposes and seemingly being operated in a safe and responsible manner. They seemed harmless enough, and the users kept them away from people as they hovered in the air. One was just a chap playing with it to see if he could fly it, and the other two were utilising onboard cameras to film a crowd at a hot rod show and the Perth skyline at dusk.

The only intrusive part of them was a constant buzz or whir, and even that was much less than a motorbike or lawn mower. I was impressed with the ability of the drone to return unaided to the point from which it was launched. I felt no sense of menace from any of the machines.

But then, I was not sunbaking nude on the Perth foreshore, growing drugs in my back garden, or erecting an illegal shed in defiance of the local council, so I had no undercurrent of guilt to worry me. I also had no sense of political grievance or jealousy in operation. There was more a sense of wonder at the sophistication of the R/C flying – in particular as much of it seemed to be automatic.

But there is a darker side – which I’ll canvass tomorrow. Charge your LiPo cells and stay tuned.

The Right Wrong Right Side Of The Road

Which side of the road do you drive on where you live? if you’re in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaya, Siam, South India, North India, East North India, South Africa, Rhodesia, and Japan, you drive on the left hand side of the road. If you are elsewhere you drive on the right.

The chief need, whether on left or right, is to do it well. With dignity. With foresight. With accuracy. All concepts that I am desperate to introduce to the residents of our street.

We are a mixed lot here in Dreyer Way, and generally benefit from it. All races, all nationalities, all ages. We do not hold wild parties and we keep our lawns mowed. We do not break into each other’s houses. We pick up litter after bin night. But we also do not know how to park in the street to save our lives. If we do not learn, some of us will risk losing them.

The convention in Western Australia – at one time enforced by the police – was that you had to park your car as close to the curb as practicable. It had to be in a place that did not obstruct other road users or the driveways and pathways that served the street. The car had to be parked on the left of the street. This seems to have changed.

On days that see tradesmen working in the street – house repairers or lawn mowing men, etc. there is no problem – they follow the old rules and you can navigate around them as you go along. They are never loud or unruly and do not speed in the street. They may be different when they get out on the open highway, but at least they are exemplary here. The residents, however, have taken to parking every which way on both sides of the street – even when their own driveways are unoccupied. Their travelling guests follow suit, and often will stop opposite a car that is properly parked on the left hand side. This narrows the street’s passageway to door-wrenching size.

Please note that our house is base to four cars – Two big ones, one medium-sized sporter, and my little Suzuki. We park on our own drive and lawn and do not encumber the rest of the way.

The bottleneck is next door, and I am starting to think that there might have to be some creative thinking to solve it. I do not want to make enemies of the neighbours but I also do not want be barricaded into my yard. It might be too much to hope that a Sherman tank with a mine plow will come down the street and shove the Mazdas aside, but I may have to resort to driving over the next door’s council nature strip to bypass their visitor’s bus. Perhaps the council garbage truck will loosen their doors a little at about 5:00 AM. I’ll listen out…

Note: Apparently they also drive on the left side of the road in England, North England, West England, and Even Further West England. I’m glad they have followed our lead.

The Mobile Phone As An Aid To Backstabbers Guild Activities

Up until the advent of the small mobile phone, recording embarrassing conversations for later use by the Backstabbers Guild Of Australia was a complex task. Tape recorders – at first the reel-to-reel style and later the cassette type – were employed to gather marketable admissions and defamatory statements but it meant that you had to set things up quite a bit in advance.

Cafe and bar meetings were pretty much out, as the necessary collusion with the owners of the premises was an expensive thing to purchase. And you had to be there hours beforehand to set up microphones and a recording room. It was a bit easier if you could lure your victim to a prepared apartment, but it still meant having an operative sitting there with headphones on listening to all that went on. Some of the BGA monitors were fine, but some got sloppy about it all. Worst of all were the ones who got allergies – it was impossible to do any serious blackmail in spring as they would sneeze at the worst possible moment.

All that has changed with the mobile phone. It need not be the latest iPhone 8 or any other sophisticated device – they all have a voice recorder in them. You just scroll though the menu, choose the appropriate app and press the red record button. The microphone gain is somewhat automatic and there is enough battery in there to go for hours. And generally it does not make any noise as it works – vital if it is concealed inside a pillow or under the bed.

There have been a number of challenges put forward as to the legal use of information gathered by these means – some sort of footling sentiment about warning the person that they were being recorded. This, of course, is nothing but naive humour to the BGA. We do not record anything for training purposes…unless you count pushing people onto the rails on the Mandurah line as training them. We record to despoil, dismay, and damage, and I am proud to say that the Guild does a workmanlike job whenever we bend our minds to it. If we decide that we are going to make you pay for your sins, you will pay the correct market price and we are professional enough to issue a receipt.

Note: Current mobile phone technology is not really effective in providing full stereophonic or wrap-around sound recording from the small devices. If you are aiming for a theatre-filling experience you still need to book our professional crew. It will all depend upon the depth of your wallet and your sense of malice.