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Delivery Drone Or Death Machine?

(Image: Succo via PixaBay)

(Image: Succo via PixaBay)

The Boston Athletic Association declared that the entire route of the 2015 Boston Marathon would be a “No Drone Zone.”

It advised the public not to operate “any type of drone (unmanned aerial vehicle), including remotely controlled model aircraft, over or near the course, or anywhere within sight of runners or spectators.”

Given the terror attack on the race two years earlier, the group's prohibition on drone usage is understandable. But it also offers a reminder that cargo and driver intent determines whether something is a “vehicle” or a “threat,” and to the extent that we cannot make that distinction, we can expect problems formulating rules flexible enough to cover either definition.

To enforce the marathon's No Drone Zone, the Boston Police Department worked with DroneShield, a Washington, D.C.-based firm, to provide drone countermeasures.

In a phone interview, Brian Hearing, co-founder of the company, said DroneShield offers a network of acoustic sensors that listen for the sound of nearby drones. It compares detected sounds to unique acoustic signatures in its drone database and issues an alert if it finds a match.

No drones were detected, said Hearing.

Nonetheless, the problems posed by drones are real and will have to be worked out if the drone industry is to thrive to the extent predicted. Last year, the Teal Group said it expects spending on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to nearly double over the next decade, from $6.4 billion annually to $11.5 billion annually. The firm expects the distribution of military and civilian spending to shift from 89% and 11% to 86% and 14% in 10 years.

Hearing said his company provides drone protection to executives and celebrities, who face paparazzi drones, and to prisons, among other customers. The use of drones to carry contraband into prisons has become a significant problem, he said, in the US and particularly in Brazil, Canada, and Hong Kong. Barbed wire fences aren't a barrier to anything that can fly.

News reports suggest that Mexican drug cartels have been using drones to fly drugs across the border at least since 2010 – it's far easier than tunneling. In 2012, the US Drug Enforcement Administration identified about 150 drone crossings. In January, a drone carrying methamphetamine crashed in a parking lot in Tijuana, Mexico, a few miles from the US border.

To read the rest of this article, visit EBN sister site InformationWeek.

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