The drones are probably no more dangerous than a typical commercial aircraft. Pilots nowadays are babysitters. Most of what they do is automated. Sometimes when this technology fails they crash because the pilot has not spent enough time actually flying the airplane. This happened a few years ago when an Airbus crashed off the coast of South America. Hopefully the lessons learned from that event will make the sky a safer place for manned and unmanned aircraft.
As I private pilot, no one can convince me that a "pilot" sitting in an office chair at an Air Force Base will have the same concern for conflicting traffic as the pilot risking his own butt in flight.
From a technical standpoint all of this is just bugs to be worked out... Our society and leaders must more importantly ask ourselves not "Could we?" but "Should we?" The U.S. has already placed itself on a very slippery slope in international relations by flying combat missions inside of other countries (yes even an unmanned but armed drone with intent to hunt/kill terrorists is involved in a combat mission) without prior permission. To allow such drones in-country may have severe ramifications for constitutional liberties and for ensuring proper processes are followed that at least maintain a semblance of justice. In many large metropolitan police departments "SWAT" teams are routinely used to "deliver subpoenas" by bashing down doors screaming in the confusion "Warrant!" and shooting anything that doesn't submit. Although the media has been relatively gentle with such news and innumerable "wrong doors" have been destroyed, and several "neighbors" have been shot dead in such erroneous actions, there remains a scary similarity with what the British were doing around 1800 to the American citizenry. What restrictions are placed upon these drones, and how those restrictions are enforced, will determine their place in history.
There are rules that cover the use of radio controlled hobby aircraft. These rules have delivered acceptable safety for all. These rules should be a good baseline for drones. Some RC aircraft can be several feet long and weigh many pounds.
If the drone technology is perfected would we see one day individual drones to be available for purchase? Wealthy individuals will be buying them for fun, tourist explorations, spying on neighbors etc. The sky will become as full as highways today! Kris
A good way to explore further would be to employ these drones for border surveillance, coast monitoring, wildlife park inspection etc before deploying them in urbane environment. Irrespective of when, a clear agreement on standards which govern the development of these drones needs realization soon. The very core of aviation- Air Traffic Management, also needs to be analyzed to see how they should evolve to cope up with a multitude of platforms in the sky many of which could be these unmanned drones.
In military, with UCAVs/other Unmanned flying platforms under development and an acceptance of the plausibility of them replacing manned platforms, the push for acceptance of drones is likely to pick up as technology gets proven in the battlefield subject to customization to urbane environment.
A recent TV show -- one of those fictional law dramas -- had an episode in which the main character shot down a police drone that was hovering over her backyard.
If drone use does become widespread over U.S. airspace, you can bet there are people who will try to use them for skeet practice!
After seeing this I have zero confidence in drones and even less in our governments concern for public safety, no that's an oxy moron huh, PUBLIC SAFETY.
The use of drones could be a hazard to the general publics safety.