Drones Accidents in Perspective

nodroneEvery day people are killed in car accidents, trains derail, and planes crash.  The reality is that many of the things we use daily can lead to accidents.  However despite this reality we do not call for bans every time a car goes off the road.  Even with gun related deaths there is a strong outcry to not ban or restrict them.

But when it comes to drones there seems to be another stream of thought that comes into play, and the immediate reaction of the media and general public is to call for further regulations and restrictions or all out bans.

A single drone accident with no injuries gathers more headlines than a random shooting it is sad to say. Just this week we seen this play out with the FIS banning camera drones at ski events for the rest of the season.  This was a crash where no injury was involved and after who knows how many incident free flights prior.  Similar UAVs were used at the Sochi Olympics with no reported issues, and numerous other sporting events the last number of years. A complete ban seems more a knee jerk reaction than a rational long term decision.  While definitely the use should be halted until the cause is found, the fear is that a blanket ban will be the solution with no real rational risk/benefit based reasoning.

To date there have been no reported fatalities from what most consider the modern day non military commercial drone multicopter.  There have been a few cases of deaths from large recreational RC helicopters but again these are rare and extreme cases.  There have been  crashes with injuries and property damage, but in proportion to the rapid growth in drone use the issues have been limited in comparison. The same applies to run ins with manned aircraft, many “reports” of near misses but to date no major incident has taken place.

If the media treated car accidents with the same level of reporting as drone accidents there would not be enough time in the day to cover them all, yet any drone mishap tends to lead the news.

Drones are new and a disruptive technology so everyone gets caught up in the hype and fears.  The focus is on the bad side and never the good.  Any device needs to be looked at in perspective of both pros and cons and risk versus reward.  The reality is no technology is perfect or 100% safe, 700 people worldwide are killed each year as a result of toaster fires and electrocutions yet most people still risk making toast as part of a normal routine.

There will be accidents and no doubt eventually drone related fatalities.  However one incident does not define the entire industry or technology. We need to keep vigilant to make drones as safe as possible but with a realistic view on potential incidents that will happen from time to time. The industry needs to work to develop more reliable systems, and define proper codes of conduct and safety procedures for their use. Recreational users need to be educated on the proper use and avoiding risky areas near airports or crowds of people. This will be an ongoing process as the technology and the industry evolves.

Drones offer too many benefits to a wide range of industries to simply be dismissed out of safety concerns from a very small percentage of incidents.  We need to take a deep breath and look for balance. Where people once feared the horseless carriage the car is now an essential part of modern life, with all the good and bad it brings.  Drones will one day be looked back on in the same manner.

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