Drones are a known danger to their targets, and anyone else within the blast radius of the missiles they fire. But the Washington Post reports that they are a menace to civilian airports!
“A review of thousands of pages of unclassified Air Force investigation reports, obtained by The Washington Post under public-records requests, shows that drones flying from civilian airports have been plagued by setbacks. Among the problems repeatedly cited are pilot error, mechanical failure, software bugs in the “brains” of the aircraft and poor coordination with civilian air-traffic controllers.”
The story contains a great many anecdotes about drone accidents. Missing from the data is any direct comparison to the likelihood of accidents for drones at military airports. Since much of drone warfare is classified, obviously it is hard to get a real idea one how common these accidents and failures are.
The story seems to want to blame private contractors, but there is not much of an effort made to prove that drones piloted by military officers don’t have failures as well.
Much could be said about losing so many of these nine-million-dollar aircraft. But the real question I have is: In the near future, how is the Department of Homeland Security going to handle the media when one of its drones causes the crash of a civilian airliner?
“The mishaps have become more common at a time when the Pentagon and domestic law-enforcement agencies are pressing the Federal Aviation Administration to open U.S. civil airspace to surveillance drones. The FAA permits drone flights only in rare cases, citing the risk of midair collisions. The Defense Department can fly Predators and Reapers on training and testing missions in restricted U.S. airspace near military bases.”
“Pressing” is an understatement. The DHS has invested its future (and our tax dollars and/or public debt) in domestic drones. According to the New American:
“The Department of Homeland Security is positioning itself to assume immense domestic law-enforcement and surveillance powers. From patrolling the traffic on the Internet to consolidating local police power, DHS is accumulating all the unconstitutional authority necessary for a proper Stasi-like secret police force. A recent story published by California Watch reported that DHS inked a new $443 million deal with über-defense contractor General Atomics to purchase 14 additional Predator drones. If (when) the new craft are delivered to DHS, there would be 24 drones in the agency’s fleet. As we have chronicled, Predator is the preferred model of unmanned aerial vehicle of the U.S. military for prosecuting its death-by-drone program in Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan, and elsewhere overseas. What doesn’t receive nearly as much press is the domestic deployment of these remote control armed spy planes. DHS is particularly fond of this brand of drone, having spent over $250 million since 2006 on building its Predator fleet. Reportedly, DHS is using the devices to patrol the porous border separating the United States from Mexico.”
The threat of domestic drones is bad enough if they fulfill their intended us. But what happens to airline safety when the American skies are full of Predators? I suppose no one should be surprised if DHS shows no real interest in preserving the safety of airline passengers. After all, those estate taxes can be used to buy more drones.