The media, perhaps looking for a cause, seems to be becoming increasingly interested in drones. An example is an article entitled Free the Drones (here) and one entitled The Robot Overhead (here) in the December 6fh-12th edition of The Economist.. The gist of the first article is that Congress should loosen the grip of the Federal Aviation Authority on commercial drone flights, since they are so useful to business. Congress has ordered the FAA to come up with new rules for commercial drone flights by September 30th, but the Economist is clearly worried that the rules will remain overly restrictive. I certainly hope they aren’t wide open. The second goes into present and potential commercial uses of drones. But are we setting about to produce the equivalent of automobile traffic in the air?
The photo reflects one of my fears—noise. My wife and I hate gas powered leaf blowers, even though she has a large garden. In our area we can hear one or more of them being used much of the time. The ones powered by two-cycle gas engines are the worst, followed by those powered by four cycle gas engines. Relative to the gas powered ones, electrical ones are okay, but not as good as rakes. Finally, manufacturers, goaded by local laws, are quieting the things down, but it has been a good while. How about drones? What kind of restrictions will there be on noise.
I am all in favor of airplanes, the commercial and military ones of which are tightly regulated during their design and operation . And as for noise, the military ones are usually based away from population centers, and attention is being paid to commercial engine noise levels (there are, of course, people who buy houses next to airports and developers who build them, so the problem will continue to exist). Private planes seem to be only marginally muffled. And there are necessary exceptions, such as the helicopter that lives on the top of the Stanford University hospital and flies directly over my house on its errands of mercy—we have not figured out how to build a quiet helicopter yet. Who is going to control the drone noise? Hopefully, not the Economist.
Since we live close to a football stadium, we are in the pattern taken by small planes noisily pulling large advertising banners. They seem to fly around from tail-gating time until the game begins. We are capable of reading the banners the first time around, and like many people, the more times we see an ad the less we like the business sponsoring it. Marketing seems to be uncontrollable in the U.S. at present. Are drones going to be enlisted to further bother us with ads? How about loud speakers?
There is awareness and resistance to increasing drone traffic. Despite Congress there will be regulations as to when and where various types can be flown and by who, and controlling such things as reliability and even noise. And the second Economist article mentions hunters shooting one down. In fact I heard of a ballot measure in one state in the U.S. seeking to make it legal to shoot down drones.
I am not against drones in general, But I see another example of technology coming faster than we can think through the consequences. In a supplement to the 2013 Worldwide UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) Roundup, published by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, there was a list of 57 nations and 270 manufacturers developing and producing some 960 unique type of UAV’s, 144 of them in the U.S. I am personally glad the FAA is slowing things down.