Last Friday, a new era of flight was launched at the Canadian Centre for Unmanned Vehicle Systems in Foremost, Alta. Ventis Geospatial, a Calgary company which has been in the drone business for several years, tested two of its units at distances beyond line of sight.
“One of them flew about three kilometres; the other flew about twelve kilometres,” company spokesman, Steve Myshak, told me.
“The test went very well. We’ve been able to use these drones to serve our clients, but we’ve been limited to line of sight operations. We flew the test flights at about four hundred feet, although both units are capable of flying much higher than that. We’ll need to do some more testing but we hope in the next few months we’ll be able to get permission from Transport Canada to operate at higher levels and at longer distances.” (block quote)
Which brings us to the challenges regulators face; what happens when an un-manned drone, cruising hundreds of feet above the terrain and looking for a pipeline spill, comes in contact with a passenger aircraft carrying two hundred folks who have paid a lot of money to be delivered safely to their destination? Who gets priority? And what happens when something goes wrong? (I moved this – because the thought seems to be connected to this first paragraph)
Technology, in so many ways, is making lots of things possible; Aerial photography, package deliveries, military uses. And these are just examples of what drones can do.
The problem for regulators is that there needs to be a rulebook – yesterday (did this to show emphasis). Technology isn’t going to wait for public hearings and parliamentary votes.
I’m not for a moment suggesting we should ground drones. There’s important work they are doing and are capable of doing. But, you look at the increasing number of devices (pretty sure copter is just helicopter) that are in private hands; you look at the capabilities of a child to operate these devices with a hand-held device or a more sophisticated computer and you say to yourself, when will there be an accident and what will be the cost?
We are discovering that the air is finite. There needs to be some rules if we’re going to add more and more flying machines. Otherwise, the skies will look like our roadways. Does anyone think that’s a good idea?