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

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid