News / Science & Technology

    Drones at Work Worldwide, But US Still Lacks Laws

    Drones at Work Worldwide, But US Still Lacks Lawsi
    X
    February 25, 2014 10:43 PM
    Commercial drones - the unmanned planes doing regular tasks - are in growing use around the world. Some assignments for these unmanned aircraft might surprise you, others will amaze you. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti reports on the countries leading the way and why the United States is so far behind.
    Commercial drones, unmanned planes doing regular tasks, are being used more and more around the world. Some assignments for these unmanned aircraft might surprise you, others will amaze you. Think of a drone as a flying camera, capturing pictures impossible for human pilots in large aircraft. But they do more than just take pretty pictures, and are cruising the skies in many countries with few restrictions.

    In England, a drone delivers sushi to restaurant tables. It is, in effect, a flying waiter.

    In South Africa, drones are conducting wildlife research on elephants, impalas, giraffes and other wild animals.

    Over the Pacific Ocean, drones take graceful video of whales at play.

    In Indonesia and China, drones will soon transport gold from mines.   

    Producer Chris Kippenberger, who creates TV commercials in Germany for high-end cars, says drones open up all kinds of possibilities.  "You can now keep the principal, keep the natural action that they are doing and start the shot from the top of a building and have the drone fly down to the person."

    Pittfalls

    Drones have also attracted unwanted attention. Two Canadians were jailed for more than two months in Egypt for filming with a drone. And Turkish police shot down a drone taking pictures of anti-government protesters last year.

    The use of drones has raised privacy issues. At a recent U.S. Senate hearing about regulating commercial or private drone use, Henio Arcangeli of Yamaha USA testified about his company's experience with a drone model called the RMax. "During its more than two decades of flight, the RMax logged 1.8 million hours of flight, and to our knowledge had not a single complaint of [invading] privacy."

    Mary Cummings, who heads the human and autonomy lab at Duke University, told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation that the United States is not "leading the drone industry - it is lagging."

    US Drone Use Lags

    Currently, drones can only fly in the U.S. on a limited basis, and typically for research.
     
    David Kirstein, who works on airline regulatory law, says there are good reasons for these limitations. "These technologies are new. They are not proven. Particularly, there are lots of issues [about] mixing them in with other air traffic.”

    Privacy advocates such as Leslie Harris, former head of the Center for Democracy & Technology, say laws are needed to protect civil liberties in the face of technological advances. “Technology outstrips law over and over again and it takes years to catch up," Harris said. "We are expanding it off the Internet to devices, to drones, to cars, to refrigerators, and we are going to have to finally make a decision as a country whether we value privacy or not, and if we do, then we have to get some basic laws in place."

    The Federal Aviation Administration estimates 7,500 drones will fill American skies within five years, but only after it publishes regulations about their use. Those rules are due next year, but experts doubt the deadline will be met.

    Carolyn Presutti

    Carolyn Presutti is an Emmy and Silver World Medal award winning television correspondent who works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters. She has also won numerous Associated Press TV, Radio, and Multimedia awards, as well as a Clarion for her TV coverage of The Syrian Medical Crisis, Haiti, The Boston Marathon Bombing, Presidential Politics, The Southern Economy, Google Glass & Other Wearables, and the 9/11 Anniversary.

    You May Like

    Russian-speaking Muslim Exiles Fear Possible Russia-Turkey Thaw

    Exiled from Russia as Islamic radicals and extremists, thousands found asylum in Turkey

    US Presidential Election Ends at Conventions for Territorial Citizens

    Citizens of US territories like Guam or Puerto Rico enjoy participation in US political process but are denied right to vote for president

    UN Syria Envoy: 'Devil Is in the Details' of Russian Aleppo Proposal

    UN uncertain about the possible humanitarian impact of Russian proposal to establish escape corridors in Aleppo

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United Statesi
    X
    July 28, 2016 2:16 AM
    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora