responders in harm’s way. Healthcare workers can deliver needed medicine, antidotes,
or vaccines to people in hard-to-reach areas
NOAA is testing drone capabilities for
use in fisheries management and enforcement. They’ve run trials with a drone model
called the Puma AE to do seabird and marine
debris surveys, as well as to improve hurricane tracking, and to patrol and enforce
laws prohibiting the taking of illegal or out-of-season fish and game. Oil companies are
using drones to patrol their offshore oil rigs
to check for intruders, vandalism, and leaks.
Even the outgoing USCG Commandant,
Admiral Bob Papp, reported to Congress
that the entire fleet of new National Security
Cutters will be equipped with drones, as
will many of the larger search-and-rescue boats. USCG Capt. Tony Hahn told
BoatU.S.,“During search-and-rescue cases,
these cutter-based drone systems will reduce
search time, as well as provide advance
en route and on-scene rescue assistance
for responding helicopter and boat crews,
enhancing planning, safety, and successful
outcomes. These are all positive impacts to
recreational boating safety.”
Although the benefits to law
enforcement, military, and
conservation applications are
clear, there’s a grayer side to
drones as well. Some people
see these drones as another
form of Big Brother and a violation of their right of privacy. Since passage
of the FAA Modernization Act, states have
introduced legislation to keep unwanted eyes
out of the skies, or at the very least create a
list of prohibited drone activities.
In 2013, more than 40 states introduced
more than 100 bills or resolutions to limit
or specifically regulate the use of drones;
16 new laws were passed. By April this year,
35 states had introduced bills; and four
new states – Indiana, Tennessee, Utah, and
Wisconsin – had adopted new laws. The
laws and list of activities cover a large range
of topics. In Louisiana, these laws prohibit
private drones from monitoring oil and gas
facilities due to their vulnerability as critical
In Pennsylvania a bill prohibits the use
of drones to obstruct anglers, hunters, and
boaters by scaring away game and fish, while
other states seek to ban anglers and hunters
from using drones to scout their catch.
In a growing number of states like Alaska
and New Mexico, legislation has been passed
that both restricts hunting and tracking with
the use of drones and, on the other side
of the issue, restricts groups from interfering with hunts by using drones to scare
No matter where you stand on these
issues, things are getting heated. In Colorado,
one town proposed an ordinance to allow the
shooting down of drones.
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Integrating civilian drone use into national
air space is becoming challenging.