Friday, March 8, 2013

The Drone Pandora’s Box: How Long Before the First Air Disaster Caused by Drone?

Most people are aware of the recently reported (2 nights ago, ABC News) incident in which an Alitalia Jumbo jet came within 200 feet of a drone on its approach to JFK Airport. The Alitalia pilot wisely called in his sighting, which technically could be termed a near miss. The drone appeared to be a ‘Phantom’ and at an altitude of 1,500 feet. The segment ended with Dianne Sawyer saying “the FBI will look into it”, but what about the FAA? Also – what is going to be done about such incidents which promise to increase as drone prices go down and regulations are further loosened (the cost of a Phantom drone now is about $700)

As an airline safety expert put it: even a collision with a drone weighing few pounds can be catastrophic, say if it smacks into a cockpit at 250 mph or collides with an engine and takes it out. This elicits the question of how long is it going to be before these unregulated and uncontrolled aerial robots cause a major airline disaster with the loss of hundreds of lives. Will our jagoff congress critters then wake up? One wonders if it’s already too late.

According to Wikipedia, Pandora's box was an artifact in Greek mythology, given by the god Zeus to Pandora and taken from the myth of Pandora's creation in Hesiod's Works and Days. The "box" was actually a large jar which contained all the evils of the world.

Today, the phrase "to open Pandora's box" means to perform an action that may seem small or innocuous, but that turns out to have severe and far-reaching consequences.

One may rightly say that the egregious domestic drone laws passed last year effectively opened a “Pandora’s Box” that may have far reaching severe repercussions for the safety of American Air travelers. But what did the idiot congress care last year when they passed the laws? All they wanted was the largesse from defense contractor lobbyists to be able move drones from the closing Afghan war to the American skies. This way, the manufacturing mills need never even slow.

In The Wall Street Journal , in a major article last year ('U.S. Skies Could See More Drones', Feb. 4, p. A7) one first learned of a monumental new law opening American skies to mass-activated drone flight. One notable paragraph read:

"Barely hours after the 374-page bill became public pilot union officials urged a more deliberate approach. Lee Moak, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, which represents 53,000 pilots across North America, said his organization remains worried about safety issues such as training and certification of those unmanned aircraft."

And further:

"Safety experts also have raised questions about the ability of sensors aboard unmanned aircraft to properly detect a nearby plane, and to assure immediate action to avoid a midair collision".

But was anyone listening or doing anything? Hell no! According to a same day article in The Denver Post  ('Domestic Drones Take Off!') it was damned the torpedoes (or drone safety in the air) and full speed ahead!”. The dollars were calling and the military industrial assholes needed new sources by which to ply their wares since they’d soon be unable to fire on unsuspecting Afghan wedding parties any more.

The result of the abominable law? Every two bit manjack immediately got a hard on to get one....even a little 'hummingbird' scale gizmo "that weighs less than a AA battery" - which could "perch on a window ledge to record sound and video"....and “spy on one’s neighbors”. One nut on a blog forum even joked that such devices might open the door to “a new form of voyeur porn”. You have got to be kidding!

As for congress at the time? What would one expect of these bought and paid for whores? Mainly whores to the military industrial complex. Anyway, according to the Post article:

"Congress has told the FAA that  it must allow civilian and military drones to fly in civilian airspace by 2015"

In other words, congress trumped all FAA enforcement and regulatory oversight to dictate to the agency how it was to expedite ”Drone nation”. This would mean 15 million of the suckers (of all sizes)  set loose in the skies by 2017.  Meanwhile, the more sober congressional members begged colleagues to wake up and that the law – replete with hundreds of loopholes-  invited a slew of mid- air collisions and near collisions! All for what? MONEY!

So what else is new?, you ask. Isn't the nation dominated by money? According to one government public relations manager (a Ben Gielow)  - who could barely control his drooling (Denver Post, op. cit.):

"The potential civil market for these systems could dwarf the military market in the coming years if we can get access to the airspace.."

Yes, and at what future cost in lives?

See, these capitalist porkers make it to be about “personal privacy”, but while that is definitely a worry it pales beside the insecurity of air travel with thousands of these (mostly unregulated) things in the skies and no controls. Bear in mind too that with fewer FAA officials for oversight, or air traffic controllers manning airport control towers – on account of likely austerity measures, cutbacks – the chances for disaster increase. One could say that the Alitalia Jumbo jet pilot actually lucked out, he spotted the damned thing. If he’d been 200’ lower, …..well, I wouldn’t like to think of the stupid Phantom or small 4-prop engine drone had crashed into a jet engine!

This whole widespread legal enabling of drone dissemination is also colossally stupid, when you have TSA officials doing everything to protect the flying public and meanwhile,....a huge gaping security hole 3,000 miles wide opens up in the skies because our lawmakers are craven, sold out whores. Where's the sense in that? How is it then logical to fiercely make the flying public submit to long TSA lines to protect them from the likes of shoe and underwear bombers when other bought- out parts of the gov’t allow drones to run wild in our skies?

Sadly, it all boils down to handouts to congress via lobbying by industry swine and then congress kowtowing to the swine to issue orders to the FAA to open up "air space"......errrr...... new capitalization opportunities and higher shares for the makers of these stupid unmanned drones. Even the Defense Dept. has bought in, but then they've always been the biggest whores for the defense contractors, drone makers. They insist:

"the demand for drones and their expanding missions requires routine and unfettered access to domestic airspace, including around airports ...."

Just one question here: WHO or what agency is going to regulate these fuckers to ensure they comply with flight safety parameters, guidelines and they don't careen into commercial aircraft? Or are you too blinded by the $$$$ signs  to see your way to an answer?

Alas, it is clear nothing will be done, barring a disaster like an aircraft- drone collision. Even then, given the extent to which our reps are bought out there’s no assurance any worthwhile controls will come to the fore.

Reason and political courage, it appears, have now gone the way of most extinct animals, like the dodo and Woolly Mammoth. Given the extent to which our entire society is now bought out, and most citizens have devolved to "consumers", it's doubtful this will ever change. The collective voice of citizens is now drowned out by money, just as their votes are trumped by it!

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