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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 23rd year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Finally, drone collides with airliner?

16 October 2017

If a drone and a plane collide the result is bound to be death and destruction. If a drone and a helicopter collide, the same outcome is inevitable, only more-so.

Well this is what a hapless public have been told again and again by a self-serving media and regulators who weaken their own credibility by hyping up risk without any substantiating evidence.

Yes, I'm sorry... I'm having a bit of a rant again about drone rules, especially as we are now starting to gain some data-points which continue to erode the doomsaying of the media and the regulators.

A few weeks ago a Phantom 4 drone collided with a US Army Blackhawk helicopter in the skies over New York city.

I find it amazing that whenever there is an alleged "near miss" between a drone and a manned aircraft, the media swings into gear, publishing over-the-top stories about how many people came close to death and how it was only a quick-thinking pilot or sheer good luck that prevented death and devastation ensuing.

So where was all the coverage of a collision that really did happen? Why were the media and the regulators so subdued?

And now, allegedly, there has been a collision between a drone and a "commercial airliner" which is also being downplayed.

What the hell is going on here?

Well I should point out that although the helicopter incident seems well evidenced, by way of pictures -- the latest "collision" remains an "alleged incident" in my opinion.

Reuters are carrying this report but it all seems a bit short on detail and lacking in any kind of independent third party confirmation or evidence. Until we see the evidence then I consider it to have the same level of credibility as when a drone supposedly hit an airliner at Gatwick (later turned out it was a shopping bag).

But let's assume for a moment that this latest report does turn out to be true.

What does it tell us?

Well it tells us that, despite the assurances of media and regulators, in a drone vs airliner competition for the same piece of airspace, the airliner is almost certainly going to come out the winner.

Despite (allegedly) hitting a drone, the airliner landed after it "sustained minor damage". Nobody was killed, nobody was even injured.

Excuse me?

Weren't corpses supposed to be littering the streets in the event of such a collision?

When the media and regulators obviously engage in such bullshirting as they have, by hyping up the consequences of such a collision, how can anything else they say be given any credibility?

And let's look at the other facts -- for those who will now be calling for "tougher drone regulations and harsher penalties".

According to the report, the collision occurred at 450m altitude. According to Canada's interim drone regulations, nobody is supposed to be flying a drone higher than 90m.

So let's get one thing very clear: the drone operator was clearly unconcerned by or ignorant of the regulations.

If that's the case, would creating harsher rules or penalties change anything?

Hell no... people who choose to ignore the rules will continue to ignore the rules, no matter how many or how draconian they become. In fact, the more restrictive you make the rules, the more likely it is that people will break them anyway. And those who are unaware of the rules right now are also likely to be unaware of any newer, harsher rules so would also blunder-on regardless.

In short, given that the drone operator was either demonstrating their ignorance or contempt, exactly how would more and/or harsher rules change anything?

Clearly such a change would alter nothing and would have no effect on the risks involved.

To summarise the situation -- we're being lied to by the media and regulators who clearly choose to ignore the facts and deliver us a bunch of disinformation as to the risks and consequences of recreational drone use. These same parties then demonstrate further ignorance by daring to claim that the solution is "more of the same" in terms of tightening rules and regulations.

Surely we can't allow such idiocy to rule the skies and the news media of the world.

Perhaps it's time to regulate the regulator and the media. The first step would be a requirement that both groups demonstrate their suitability, ability and competence -- perhaps by passing some form of independent examination. You guys can dish it out, let's see if you can take it!

And let's not forget that while we're all being scared into a state of trauma by the risks associated with drones hitting aircraft, there are much greater threats out their in much greater numbers. Be afraid, be very afraid.

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