by Ben Howard
Drones have gotten a bad rap in the public eye. We see constant media coverage of drone strikes overseas and surveillance footage that they capture of people totally unaware of their presence. Legislators in Oregon have introduced Senate Bill 71 to ban every possible form of drones to prevent drones from being used to spy on us or worse, kill citizens of Oregon.
Now on the surface I agree with the idea. I don’t want big brother watching me 24 hours a day with armed drones circling overhead and I don’t think anyone else does either. The problem is that people see drones as government spies or killers not simply as workhorses of the sky. Just because the military puts missiles on helicopters doesn’t make anyone think a life flight helicopter should be banned. People recognize that conventional airplanes or helicopters have other uses and value them accordingly.
Until recently the public did not have the ability to operate their own drones but now that technology has gotten cheaper, lighter and smaller, anyone with 400 bucks can buy a Parrot AR Drone from Amazon which displays live video and can be piloted by their iPad. If SB 71 passes, the owner / operator of that toy could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor.
If Oregon bans drone use or makes it so cumbersome that private industry avoids it, they will close their door to a multi-billion dollar industry. In the future drones can and will be used for precision agriculture, forestry, land use planning and much more. It would be a shame to see Oregon miss this opportunity.
Ben Howard is the CTO of HoneyComb. HoneyComb uses drones to image the earth using high-resolution, hyperspectral, and thermal cameras. Systems are light-weight, modular, and can be quickly deployed anywhere in the world within days.