Christmas Day is just two weeks from today, and there are reports that drone sales could exceed one million units this holiday season. That’s quite a few unmanned aircraft about to be unwrapped in the morning and flying over the neighborhood by Christmas afternoon. And that’s just the hobbyist market. If recent reports are accurate, we’re not far from the day when commercial drones will be zipping around delivering packages, monitoring city streets, and scanning crowds. Quite simply, drones are about to become as commonplace as sparrows in the sky.
Naturally, this introduces new risk management and insurance issues to be settled. There are currently no mandatory standards for training or certification for drone hobbyists, and very little for commercial drones. There is talk of requiring all drone pilots to register their drones so that they can be held accountable for any troubles they may cause. That’s a start, but there have already been many reports of drones encroaching on restricted airport airspace, and I have a sneaky suspicion that it may take a major drone-induced accident to push many of the regulatory and risk management issues to the forefront. I hope not, but at my age, that has been my historical observation.
As I understand these flying gadgets, they do have some built-in safeguards. The technology can keep them from flying above 400 feet, and geo-fencing can keep them out of areas where they shouldn’t be. Like any other technology, it may not be (probably isn’t) foolproof. I’m seeing some parallels to the 1984 film “Runaway” starring Tom Selleck in which our hero Tom was battling against rogue robots that were being reprogrammed for nefarious purposes by the villain (played by KISS rock star and mogul, Gene Simmons) to carry out his evil plan. Some of today’s drones even resemble the evil little “spider robots” that were prominent in the 1984 film.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting that drones are about to take over the world and do the bidding of villains, but let’s be realistic. For all the entertainment value and commercial value that drones will bring to us, they will also bring significant challenges and new risks. It’s not that far-fetched to imagine rogue drones being used for terrorist purposes to frightening effect.
So on that cheery note, enjoy your new drone on Christmas morning. Just be careful and responsible out there.