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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regreti
X
Zana Omer
March 28, 2015 1:19 AM
Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Virginia Tavern Takes Patrons Back to Medieval Times

European martial arts are not widely practiced and are unknown by most people. A tavern in Old Town Alexandria, outside Washington, wants to change this by promoting these fighting techniques from medieval times. Through combining visual arts, martial arts and culinary arts, this tavern brings medieval history back to life. VOA's Yang Lin and Helen Wu report.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More