Wednesday, July 29, 2015

HiTech To The Rescue - To Take Out Drones Where They Don't Belong!

Nuisance small drones, which some idiots treat as exotic toys, are now becoming dangerous nuisances and need to be brought under control. Since the FAA appears impotent to act, there are at least others who are making headway technologically into putting these irritating little bastards out of commission - and potentially rendering them techno-junk.

In the past month alone, there've been over a dozen near misses of drones with commercial aircraft which ought to scare the bejeezus out of any air traveler. In one case the damned drone - one of those small outfits that are the main nuisances - went way over its allowed altitude and came to within 200 ft. of a jetliner attempting a landing. Fortunately, the pilot saw the damned thing in time and was able to dodge it, but next time we may not be so lucky. As one air line safety specialist put it, all it takes is one getting sucked into a jet engine and it would be all over. Yeah, there'd be the usual weeping and gnashing of teeth after the fact, but most of us who've been carping about the litany of such near misses in the past two years would be asking 'Why wasn't something done?'

Then, there've been the incidents barely a week ago where firefighters near San Bernardino CA had to pull back their efforts because the damned drones were hovering over the flames - hampering their efforts. The result? The fire fighting planes were delayed 26 minutes and dozens of cars were burned up on a highway stretch through the fire zone.

Many have been noticing these incidents and are now planning to do something about it. This according to a recent WSJ piece  ('Meet the Drone Killers', July 24, p. B1).

In France, after several drones meandered above nuclear power stations, the government awarded contracts to small military research teams to develop weapons that can be used to bring down the bird-sized nuisances. French defense electronics firm Thales SA is also working on a system to use radar to spot a drone, then use jamming tools to take control  of it.

In the U.S. especially after the near-miss  airline encounters, companies are developing counter drone systems that use microphones or radar to detect nuisance drones then take them out.  Authorities have already used some of these systems to safeguard prisons, secure sporting events and government buildings.  Many of the counter drones have mechanisms in place to capture any unwelcome drones and even destroy them.

These can't come into play soon enough given the FAA can't seem to control airspace after being pushed by a dummy, venal congress to allow U.S. skies to be overrun - thanks to pressure from drone makers.  The existence of the relevant bill was first reported on Feb. 4, 2012 in The Wall Street Journal  ('U.S. Skies Could See More Drones', p. A7)and it came as a shocker of sorts. First, because it disclosed yet another federal agency (FAA) held hostage to the corporatist-industrial complex, now attempting to find new avenues for drone production since the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan are ending (well the first has officially ended, the second nearly may not until 2024). And second, because it discloses how secretive this corporate-benefiting information is.

Medea Benjamin made reference to the spectacle of congressional corporate compliance and being bought out by the drone makers, as she said:

"They’ve been able to write the drone legislation and get their lackeys in Congress to push it through and get the president to sign it.”
In other words, the congressional rats and whores placed the bottom line of corporations over citizen welfare. But this is what we expect in a corporatocracy.  In the case of the FAA bill, worth some $63 billion (and nearly four years in the lobbying and rewriting), U.S. skies would be inundated with tens of thousands of unmanned drones sharing airspace with commercial planes.
A dozen or more incidents last year were exposed in an investigation by the Washington Post and  include one in which a pilot descending into LaGuardia observed a drone with a 10 -15 foot wingspan above lower Manhattan. In another LA incident, two separate pilots reported a drone "the size of a trash can" perilously close by.  The FAA was not able to pursue or identify the offenders because either "radar data was not available" or "the operators could not be identified." (Denver Post, 'Drone Close Calls', June 25th, p. 17A)   The Post notes that (p. 22A):

"The close calls were the latest in a rash of dangerous encounters between civilian aircraft and drones flown in contravention of FAA rules intended to safeguard U.S. airspace.."
The FAA in the wake of these has had to come clean and reveal many other near misses, forcing it to at least appear to be doing something. That includes at least mouthing proposals that would require all drone operators to be subject to testing and have pilot licenses. Sounds good, but up to now I've seen nothing further other than in Neoliberal newspapers where editorials have raked the FAA over the coals for the plan.  But what do these numb nut editors propose given all the nincompoops with drones running loose who ought to be locked up in rubber rooms?

Right now, the Federal Aviation Administration requires that drones remain below 400 feet, making it difficult for most potential users (including farmers, cops etc.) to use them effectively, The problem is when the regulations are flouted for the sake of effectiveness (or by loonies with no business flying them at all) and  hundreds of  people's lives are wantonly put at risk.

This is exactly why we need high tech robot, anti-drone 'police' systems manning the skies to shoot the little bastards down or otherwise neutralize them if their owners flout rules. If we can't trust the FAA for control, and the drone operators act like drunken fools,  at least we might be able to trust anti-drone technology coming onstream!

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