Yesterday, I attended a school event - which featured, during the entirety of the event, drones flying over the area. Over the heads of thousands of students. I asked the drone operator to stop flying over our heads, and he ignored me and continued to fly dangerously.
Now, the term “drone” is too vague. The word everyone should use is a “multicopter”, or in this case, a “quadcopter”. These are the most common types of multicopters, sold by various companies such as DJI, Parrot, and so on.
The problem is that drones, or multicopters, is largely an unregulated area that everybody can get into, just because they’re so cheap nowadays. You can even fly them without prior experience, because there’s nobody stopping you. And when that happens, we have a lot of idiots flying without reading the goddamn instruction manual, and then inevitably making it crash over the top of someone’s head. And then come the legal and medical fees, everyone is unhappy, et cetera.
So here are a couple of reasons why you shouldn’t fly your toy that way.
1. It’s dangerous
This is an obvious reason. The thing is, multicopters are pretty freaking serious. They have props (propellers) on them that spin at thousands of rotations per second. They become very effective meat shredders, and there are a LOT of videos and articles out there showing what can happen if one makes an emergency landing on a flesh bag. (NSFW warning. If you are squeamish DO NOT click on the above links.)
The point is, these spinny things have no business next to a human. So it should come as no surprise that the number one rule of drone operation is DON’T fly over crowds. The drone operator broke that rule that day, and that comes with a lot of consequences, as I’ll detail further in this blog post.
2. You’re not in full control
Even if you’re an expert at drone control, things can go wrong unexpectedly. Multicopters are not the most stable things in the world, and a lot of factors come into play when you put one up in the air.
People can knock your drone out of the sky by simply jamming whatever frequency your controller talks on with the drone. Or they can hack your drone and send it off to an unsuspecting target, while you’re left with the responsibilities. You might just simply lose control because of radio interference.
This also comes into effect with the HUD. Your control only goes so far, and once you’re blind because your phone loses connection to the onboard camera, then it’s a game over for your drone. You can’t control what you can’t see.
3. It results in more negative press
Let’s say you did the unthinkable and flew your drone over crowds. Let’s say it came crashing down and chopped off someone’s cheek. “Drone cuts off human finger” is not a headline you want to see associated with your name, and certainly not with the drone community.
Thing is, drone flying is extremely safe only if you follow all rules associated with drone flying. Don’t fly over crowded areas - instead, go to a secluded spot where you can fly your drone in peace. There is a reason why a lot of professional drone pilots fly drones in remote areas. Don’t ever assume you’re better than them.
4. It can turn rules into regulations
If there’s one thing I absolutely hate, it’s the drone industry becoming regulated by the government.
Wait a second. I thought you said follow all regulations?
I said follow all rules. So what’s the difference? The rules are an unofficial set of guidelines set by the community to make drone flying safer. They work, and they have been proven to work, because so far there have been no fatalities when you follow all the rules set by the community. It’s actually pretty hard to cause damage when you follow them.
But once they become regulations, it becomes ugly and boring. Imagine if you had to get a license to fly drones. Imagine if that license cost you more than the drone itself. Imagine if I told you this is already a reality in the US right now. Flying drones is illegal without a license because we simply have too many brain-dead idiots NOT following the rules of the community. They crash their drones, generate negative press, and then the government officials swoop in with the argument that drone flying is unsafe and should be regulated.
5. It’s annoying
A lot of friends I talked to agreed that the drones were annoying. They were trying to enjoy the event, and not hear the drones buzzing overhead.
If your only goal is to get aerial footage, then fine. Just get it someplace far away. Don’t make the drone fly over our heads. You can still get good footage 200~300 meters away and not cause an inconvenience.
Don’t be an asshole. Stop flying drones if you can’t follow the rules.
I think there should be an additional rule in the long list of unofficial guidelines - don’t fly drones at events. This is already covered by “don’t fly over crowds” but I think this should be extended to the general area of the event. Even though the drone isn’t flying over people, it has caused too many dangerous situations before: at weddings, concerts, what not. People get excited, they like the floating toy, but then they get too close and then it smashes into them. Who can blame them? It’s cool. Drones are pretty amazing. They float in the air and stuff. But they’re also dangerous.
With weaponized multicopers right around the corner, it’s easy to see why drones at events are a bad idea. Too many problems, too many dangerous scenarios.