Posted: 25th September 2015 | Written by: Shawn Engbrecht, Cass Global Security
The arrival of commercial drones has been something of an understated affair. To a degree, it still is. The capacity of commercial “mini-helicopters” is still minute compared to the eye-popping capabilities of their military cousins. The application of commercial drones is very much like the early days of the internet where the information highway adhered to policies of “doing no evil” fashioned by Google’s Brin and Page.
Drones perform an identical function at a fraction of the cost of employing Search and Rescue Helicopters, they are deployed for geographical purposes and are being tapped for the innovation of new applications, all with multiple benefits to mankind. Meanwhile, the military, eyeballing the capacity for real time, look-down intelligence at the guys-in-the-mud, is becoming a firm believer in the quest for battlefield superiority.
So far so good. But much like the internet, there is a dark side to drone technology. For the majority of us who support Jeff Bezo’s idea of having your summer bestseller arrive via the drone pad on the lawn, there is the lone nut case who thinks about how to rig a pipe bomb to it. Or hang an infrared lens on it to film you when you take a shower, soon to be posted on the internet of course.
But the real horror is yet to come. That horror will be enormous on arrival because drones are aircraft killers, in a very lethal way. Sullenberger (the Airline Captain who landed in the Hudson river in New York where all survived) hit a flock of geese, which was more than enough to flame out both engines. Drones, with all those metal parts, have the capacity to inflict catastrophic damage when sucked into a jet intake.
Alas, privately operated drones generally fly between 1-1000 ft, which is precisely the most vulnerable altitude for aircraft in terms of flying with flaps, landing gear deployed, and slower airspeeds. Yes, the FAA has guidelines up about using drones near airports, but there has not yet been a single prosecution to date.
Observe the following photo:
The aircraft in the photo was 30 meters from eternity. It’s not a funny photo, nor should it be a sensation on the internet. For all those passengers on board, that was a near death experience that most of them never knew occurred.
It is, in my personal opinion, a question of when, not if. Sooner or later a drone, flown by an idiot (of which the genus homo sapiens has millions) will drop a passenger plane with horrific loss of life.
THEN there will be quite the debate over drones. For a detailed insight into the magnitude of the problem, read this article in the Washington Post.
So what does all this have to do with private security, especially as it pertains to yachts?
Food for thought:
It is reasonable to assume that sooner or later, much firmer guidelines will arrive pertaining to the use of personal drones. Remember, the internet was the “information superhighway open to all” until it was used as a distribution conduit for child porn and kids started committing suicide over Facebook bullying. The internet isn’t quite the “free and private” place it used to be. Drones will be great toys until a 777 comes down at which point regulations pertaining to their use will change dramatically.
Get one now while the rules of purchase/use are still relatively loose. In time, they will become a much more regulated device.
When used in a maritime configuration, drones are one of the most powerful security tools available, especially when fitted with real time video capability with low light capacity. The idea of being able to launch a personal helicopter to investigate an unknown vessel and confirm it as friendly/hostile is a concept unimaginable only a few years ago. I try to avoid the word “revolutionary” due to gross abuse in the public domain, but commercial drones in a maritime environment really are.
Any private yacht should have a state of the art drone as part of the regular inventory. Most of the thorny issues described earlier will NOT apply to international waters as none of the conditions which will give the FAA fits on terra firma will exist in the deep blue. All the more reason to purchase now.
Drone operators on land will eventually face toughened legislation. There is no way around it and eventually it will happen once the carnage hits a sufficiently high level.
Drones employed in a maritime application should be able to sidestep the majority of issues confronting their land based cousins.
What is NOT being debated is the game changing applications of the technology, for better or worse, depending upon the objectives or political bent of the operator.
Get one while you still can.