Who Wins the Game of Drones?

078 The recently completed Consumer Electronics Show just gets bigger and bigger every year with massive new convention space in the Venetian and Sands Expo spill over into the Aria, not to mention three main halls in the Las Vegas Convention Center.  You leave the show thinking all of your electronics are terrible and can’t wait for the new stuff.

Perhaps one of the fastest growing segments of the show is the development of drones — robotic flying devices on a much smaller scale than the massive jet-like military ones used by our armed forces. These commercial drones range in size from a small sphere to four propeller types easily as large as a Vespa.  Many are designed to hold a video or still camera; others can carry objects weighing up to five pounds.  You might recall Amazon had a plan to deliver small packages.  The cost of drones ranges from $20 to well over $1,000 depending of size and features. 077 090 And the uses for aerial photography, monitoring fields of crops for agricultural purposes, and even law enforcement/public safety uses (searching for lost hikers for example) for drones can change the way certain segments of our society operates.  Last August, the California Legislature passed a law requiring a warrant for law enforcement to use drones for police surveillance.  But there are few rules associates with drones now.  Most drones can’t fly higher than 400 feet and can’t be flown near an airport. You can’t use them to make money yet and the US Congress and the FAA are still working out rules on the use of private drones.

But imagine the negative side of private drones.  Using a drone with a video camera to peer into a neighbor’s bedroom. Using a drone with a cargo hold to drop contraband into a prison yard (drugs, cigarettes, a gun?).  Photographers using drones to take photos of a celebrities outdoor wedding to sell the footage to TMZ.

My favorite rumor is someone in Anaheim shot a drone out of the sky with a firearm — something I am unable to confirm — which has interesting implications for the discharge of a firearm and what gets hit if the shooter misses.

I spoke with the media relations team at the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and they are unaware of any laws restricting the use of personal drones other than keeping them away from airports.  They caution when new technology emerges, the actions of users often dictate new laws which is why you can talk on a cell phone or text while driving. At some point, the is an invasion of privacy case that’s bound to happen.  But in other cases, the police can act.

For example, a drone with a camera hovering in your backyard just took photos of your pre-teen daughter stepping out of the shower.  If you see it and track it back to your neighbors house, the police will investigate and charges could be filed which could be very serious. It’s going to be fun watching this technology develop and how these devices are used for good or bad.