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2d62 – Consumer drones should be banned!

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Over 1 million consumer drones…

have been registered in the US alone with 100,000 new registrations each month and it is without question that commercial drones also have fully arrived. The applications are vast: From communities racing with their remote controlled drones while wearing 3D glasses projecting the cockput view from the aircraft to personal assistants gathering items or assessing crowds.

FPV racing is a bit special because it usually requires a defined territory to race in but drones operated by consumers may pose a security risk. They may crash into crowds, may be used by terrorists or may get in the way of emergency helpers like the drone a journalist used to cover the rescue mission surrounding the soccer team that was trapped in a cave in Thailand earlier this year.

All of these effects call for a ban of consumer drones while we still can, says Sebastian. After all, they’re only toys anyway and a nuisance when blocking the view or disturbing wildlife.

Dirk’s position is more permissive. He believes that we should limit what drones are allowed to do but that a ban is too extreme and not called for. Aren’t there already no-fly zones and smart drones that avoid crowds?

Listen how the argument played out in the end. Are drones useless toys that can be used by terrorists or rather the future of personal technology? Should we ban or not?

Some pointers to things we mentioned during the episode:

Thank you for listening to this debate. We promised in our last newsletter drones and cannabis and now made true on one half of it. Let us know what you thought, vote and to all our US listeners: Happy Thanksgiving!

Sebastian & Dirk

Picture: CC0, Pixabay

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Sebastian wrote: November 25, 2018 at 6:08 pm

Wow, that’s quite a comment! So first of all, thank you for taking the time to respond at length. The time you took in unpacking each argument is totally worth it, if anything to educate us :).

In response, here are some points I’d like to clarify:

1. We don’t pretend to be experts, even if our personal interests and quick research lead us to believe we can produce reasonably sound and interesting debates. Granted you don’t agree, that’s alright. Do bear into account that in 6 minutes each, we can’t necessarily go at depth in any given topic, even if we do try to come up with the most powerful arguments that we feel at ease defending even if it were not our default position. Granted, you don’t feel that we do a good enough job even in those 6 minutes, that’s a fair criticism.

2. About regulation: it turns out that many countries actually don’t have much regulation in place (I’m familiar in particular with a few emerging countries, the EU and the US may be much more advanced when it comes to regulation, and Germany in particular, for better or worse). I would also argue that the over-tight regulation in some areas/countries almost comes down to an effective ban, which would gradually make drones just a niche activity like RC planes and the like.

3. I may have not explained properly enough what I meant by a ban: I was not emphasising that one wouldn’t be able to build or even buy their own drones (much like one cannot prevent people from growing marijuana even in countries where it’s not legal to do so), but that even if you were using a drone, in particular the ones that are selling the most (i.e. DJI drones), it would be fairly easy for any law enforcement to take them down in a variety of ways (and if those ways are not effective today, they are bound to be in a few years).

4. On the dangerous nature of drones, bear in mind that this is a debate so it may well happen that I over-emphasise some specific points. I would be perfectly fine to accept that today injuries caused by drones aren’t more numerous than injuries caused by other “things”.

Once again, thank you for your feedback, it makes for an interesting additional perspective on the topic, and certainly enlightens us further!

Dr. Azrael Tod / DresdenFPV wrote: November 24, 2018 at 11:02 am

Ok, you complained that I just criticise globally about this beeing a shitty episode, without any concrete arguments. You are right about that. So let’s try…

But… Urgh… I don’t know where to even start…

Well, no. In fact that’s the only obvious thing. You both don’t seem to know what a drone is.

But let’s call it “medium sized consumer, prebuild camera quadcopter with obstacle avoidance and stab-only flying”, because you’re pretty much the only thing you seem to talk about.

Because if I’d try to make a point about “But a $10 brushed motor indoor toy isn’t dangerous” then you’d just answer “Yeah, but we’re not talking about those!” (same for ducted FPV-racers, fixed wing or VTOL planes, lighter-than-air crafts, cars, track-vehicles, hovercraft, … Yes, a Roomba is a consumer drone.)

So I’ll go with that extremely restricted term and just pretend you meant that whenever you said “consumer drone”.

Then you fail to make a point AT ALL about why it should need a ban. There’s regulation already in place in pretty much all countries and you didn’t even try to tell us why that shouldn’t be enough of an restriction.

Then you don’t even know how a ban should work. You just claim it would. No it won’t. I can build my own drone with off-the-shelf parts in half a day.

Designs are available, parts are common things that can’t be restricted access to (well unless you want to ban people from buying any motors or STM32 microcontrollers)

The most complex parts are software. (Well that and any camera you’d like to attach to it)

This is exactly the point of why we’re using quadcopters – they are incredibly simple when you look at the mechanical side. You just take 4 Motors, add props and give them enough power so you don’t have to care about aerodynamics.

Then you claim that drones are dangerous. No they aren’t. At least not more than say a baseball bat, a thrown football or worse a bike crashing into pedestrians.

It’d be worse for fpv racing quadcopters (because of the high prop speed) but you don’t seem to talk about those.

I could go on for hours.

But just some side-notes, because I don’t think continuing further will help anybody:

* the “ion-wind-drive” can’t ever generate enough thrust to create usefull stuff. If you want to increase thrust, you have to increase voltage – increase it too much and you create arcs (like lightning bolts) and your thrust is gone. It’s good for toys and really big/light things – maybe a blimp or similar could use that.

* no, FPV racers don’t just fly on safe tracks – google “fpv freestyle” or “indoor fpv” if you want examples

* pretty much all restrictions to flying things are far older than “consumer drones” and applied to model planes and similar before. You still have to follow the same rules and “I’ll just fly over fraport” was always forbidden. We (germans) just got new legislation last year to clear some things up – the EU prepares new stuff that will become active in 1-2 years.

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