My thoughts an opinion on drones used for photography. Just the word “drone” strikes up a rather high tech & eerie thought to some people. Speaking in general terms (photography aside) the word “drone” for most people brings to mind a robotic plane used most recently in the war on terrorism, flying low and silent across a desert seeking its human target. Or it brings to mind the dialogue of any number of Si-Fi movies. But today I am talking about a small robotic aircraft that carries a camera that shoots either video or stills and is controlled by a person with a hand held controller. Personally I think drones used in capturing photos & video is awesome… But… yes there is always a big “but” isn’t there?
Ok so the reason for this post is; whether or not you are a photographer or care anything about photography drones are going to be in the news a lot in the near future and more than likely will impact your life in some way, form or fashion. We hear about Amazon.com testing drones for delivery of packages and a brilliant student working on a system to have drones deliver medical supplies in emergency situations, such as the delivery of a defibrillator guided with pinpoint accuracy to the downed person. This sounds all good & well in a perfect world. But much like Alfred Nobel and his invention of dynamite that was intended for good purposes, so will be the way of the drone aircraft in the photography & video world.
But… oh yes “but number 2. Enter in the US government and now we have a real “love-hate” saga that will surely have some people up in arms. Now me personally I think the government does need to regulate to some degree, however we know how good ole Uncle Sam works and we know how greedy he is. So let’s go over a few different scenarios.
- Someone using an entry level drone to spy on you while you are on your own property. Let’s say you live like I do. I live on a rural farm and for the most part it is a private place. Myself I like the feeling of privacy and a peace of mind that comes with it. Now this is me and my feelings, it is a free country and I am on private land. If someone were to come on this land and let’s say “hide in a bush” and photograph me without my knowledge would be wrong and they would be trespassing. However what are the local laws about a drone flying overhead and stealing away my privacy, or your privacy for that matter. What are your thoughts and feelings on that situation? As you can see I’m being very broad and generic about the description of the situation, so let’s make it a little narrower and say it was a private wedding or funeral and only certain people are allowed to attend. However drones have free reign of the airspace over your head. Not so private any more, is it?
- You take that once in a lifetime trip to the Grand Canyon. People come to the Grand Canyon from all over the world to pay witness to one of the seven natural wonders of the world. You can bring your camera and take as many photos as your heart desires. But you can not take those photos using a drone in most national parks. More and more public places are not so much outlawing the use of drones as they are “suspending” the use. Some drone users don’t understand why and others get it, but still want to complain about it. So let’s look a little closer and see what the problem is. I ask you; have you ever been bothered by a rude person talking on a mobile phone. The rudeness can come in many different ways, such loudly yucking it up with her friends about a recent party while sitting in a doctors waiting room. Or the guy fighting with his stockbroker while walking down a peaceful nature trail at the local park. These are both real life incidents that I have experienced. And while “no” they did not damage me for life, I did feel that both people were obviously annoying and their behavior was disruptive. We all have come to know there will always be rude and ignorant people in public, it is a given. And so now give that ignorant & rude person a drone aircraft and he/she will ruin that peaceful moment you were enjoying while viewing a beautiful sunset or gazing at a heard of wild deer in a meadow. The drone will come buzzing along and there goes your special moment.
- With all this talk about drones and where they can and can not be used, coupled with the ever changing technology, that by the way is changing as you read this post… let’s enter in Uncle Sam and his greedy fingers. Other than some suspensions of the use of drones there have been know real big laws put in place regulating the drones other than of course the use of drones around airports and limited altitude levels. But… oh yeah “but” number 3. But it is coming down the road; it is just over the rise in the road so you don’t see it yet. There will be lots of laws, regulations, licensing and permits. Some will be needed and welcome I’m sure, however I feel most will be unnecessary and just a way for the government to bilk money out of the public. This is when the so called “suspensions” will be lifted and you’ll be able to fly when & where you want for a fee or let’s just call it what it really is; a tax. Want to fly in a National Park? Sure come on down and show us green pictures of dead presidents (& Ben Franklin) and you can fly the drone anywhere you want. Oh but wait a minute… maybe your one of those people against drones; hey not to worry we have drone free zones or drone free days… and yes they will cost extra too. So this way everybody is at some point bent over grabbing their ankles while having fun with their good ole Uncle Sam. I feel the reason the government has not thrown the hatchet yet is because they’re waiting for the technology to level out a bit and see how & where drones settle in our society. It will be then that the government will be able to capitalize with the biggest impact with all the licensing and permitting laws.
So, much like the mobile phone and dynamite, drones are here to stay. The only real question that remains is; at what cost?