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It has finally happened

20 December 2018

Almost every week I read stories about drones colliding with airliners and the hundreds of lives that are placed at risk by such events.

Fortunately, without exception, these stories turn out to be nothing more than clickbait fake news by the media and hype from anti-drone groups such as the NZ Airline Pilot's Association.

However, there was an incident yesterday that should have every single person in the country (indeed, every person on the planet) extremely concerned for their safety, where drones are involved.

In Venezuela a few months ago, the media reported that drones were used in an attempted assassination attempt on the country's leader. Of course (as is always the case), this turned out to also be fake news and a work of fiction.

Right here in New Zealand however, we have a documented case of something very similar, and it happened this week on the grounds of parliament.

This story is already making headlines around the world and is a sage reminder of the dangers of modern, highly automated machinery.

Imagine if that drone was laden with explosives and if the crown limo had been carrying all 120 or so members of parliament.

Oh the humanity!

Surely the headline should have read "Entire New Zealand Parliament almost killed in near-catastrophic drone collision".

What is wrong with the media... were they asleep at their desks or something? Too much Christmas spirit the night before at the company party maybe?

What a golden opportunity to create yet another ludicrous click-bait, fake-news headline -- and they missed it!

This incident does raise a few issues though:

Firstly -- does the crown not hire drivers that can stop within half the visible distance ahead when driving?

Or has anti-drone hysteria now reached such a fever-pitch that the driver felt he was doing a public service by destroying one of the evil flying machines with his limo?

I also have to chuckle that in New Zealand, the type of work being performed by the drone would require the operator to have spent thousands of dollars creating and filing safety-plans, dissertations and all manner of proof that they were "fit and proper" operators with a superior ability to identify and manage risks when using their drone.

Mere mortals, even those who have been at the forefront of the drone revolution for over a decade and who have been flying remotely piloted aircraft systems for over half a century without causing death, injury or damage to third parties can't possibly be allowed to fly even the tiniest craft somewhere as important as the grounds of parliament.

So how the hell did:

  • The drone operator and is (compulsory) spotter, not see something as large as a BMW 7-series limo approaching their operations?
  • The limo driver not see something as obvious as a drone (which must have been sitting on the ground in order to be "run over"?

Now I'm sure the drone operator had all the relevant certifications and authorities and I'm sure that the limo driver has a full driver's license with any relevant endorsements.

Just goes to show that a tonne of licenses, authorities, endorsements, certifications and permissions is often worth less than a gramme of commonsense and care.

Meanwhile, I think the media, NZALPA and a fair few other organisations owe the drone community a huge apology for constantly defaming them with their outrageous and unsubstantiated claims with respect to a seemingly endless series of lies being told about collisions with airliners and the hundreds of deaths that were narrowly avoided.

But hey, it's Christmas... so perhaps everyone's just really drunk or hung-over eh?

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