Rein in unregulated drones

Duck! The drones, it is quite clear, are out of the barn. And true to the idiom, Congress is belatedly trying to close the door.

From the White House to quite possibly your house, dozens and dozens of reports of dangerous drone incidents are piling up. Among the scarier examples: On Aug. 9, pilots on four airliners spotted an unmanned craft as they approached Newark Liberty International Airport, Bloomberg News reported. Additionally, the Federal Aviation Administration in recent weeks received dozens of reports about drones too close to aircraft fighting California wildfires and near-collisions over airports in New York, Minneapolis and Austin, Texas.

Flying a drone near an airliner, or the White House for that matter, is what we expect of terrorists. But so far, the drone craziness can be traced to “hobbyists” or “recreationists.”

“Without common sense rules, I believe it’s only a matter of time before there’s a tragic accident,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California. She and other lawmakers want regulators to revise existing law to plug a loophole that spares recreational drones from regulations, Bloomberg reported. They are also are seeking the use of software that would prevent drones from flying in prohibited areas.

Currently, drone operators fall under voluntary education campaign run by the drone industry and the FAA. Which obviously isn’t working. (While sales of drones continue to soar.)

Other examples documented by The Washington Post: A drone used to smuggle drugs into an Ohio prison; a drone smashed against a Cincinnati skyscraper; a runaway two-pound drone struck a woman at a gay pride parade in Seattle, knocking her unconscious; a drone buzzed into a crowd at an outdoor festival in Albuquerque,, injuring a bystander; in Tampa, a drone reportedly stalked a woman outside a downtown bar before crashing into her car; and a Connecticut man posted an Internet video of a drone he had armed with a handgun, firing shots by remote control. Local police and the FAA determined that no laws had been broken.

On the other hand, it is against the law to shoot a drone, even when it hovers over your private property, as more than one person has discovered. (Although firefighters were definitely within their rights when they tried to drown a drone flying over a house fire.)

The Department of Homeland Security said it had recorded more than 500 incidents since 2012 in which rogue drones hovered over “sensitive sites and critical installations,” such as military bases and nuclear plants, The Post reported.

Meanwhile, scientists are concerned drones are stressing out wildlife. Just as they are stressing out and/or endangering humans. Yes, Congress, better late than never, bring on the common sense drone laws.

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