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 awards and a Clarion for her coverage of The Syrian Medical Crisis, Haiti, The Boston Marathon Bombing, Presidential Politics, The Southern Economy, and The 9/11 Bombing Anniversary.  In 2013, Carolyn aired exclusive stories on the Asiana plane crash and was named VOA’s chief reporter with Google Glass.

You can follow Carolyn on Twitter at CarolynVOA, on Google Plus and Facebook.

You May Like

Beloved Lion Killing Sparks Virtual, Real Life Outrage

Twitter, as usual, was epicenter for anger directed at Palmer, with some questioning his manhood, calling for him to be released into the wild More

Video Booming London Property Market a Haven for Dirty Money

Billions of dollars from proceeds of crime, especially from Russia, being laundered through London property market, according to anti-corruption activists More

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

One former Scout leader thinks organization will move past political, social debate, get back to its primary focus of turning boys into good citizens More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs