I have much more confidence in safety from private aviation because the pilot/owner is sitting in the thing. I am concerned about the drones falling out of the sky because someone forgot to fill them up, change the oil or check out that crack in the wing root.
Hardware and in particular FPGA and CPLD (firmware) also needs a critical evaluation. I have worked on real-time and embedded control systems my entire career as a software developer. While software does deserve its share of the blame for error, bugs, etc. Hardware and firmware are just as critical. The drones will need reliable high speed communication links that must stream video in real time. Will there be a requirement for collision avoidance systems? The hardware and firmware define the constraints in which the software has to operate. If the hardware or firmware is not up to the task, then it is irrational to expect the software to take up the slack. Yet, this is often what is required. All in all, this is a bad idea on multiple fronts and is just an accident waiting to happen.
Drones should have one altitude range assigned to them, where manned flight is a keepout and is only transitional for climb or descent to manned altitudes. That altitude is also, hopefully, such that they can be used for skeet practice
Drones are, in essence, flying autonomous vehicles. Pros and cons surrounding drones today might well foreshadow the debate over the development of self-driving cars. In the context of a strongly regulated aviation industry, "self-flying" drones pose a fresh challenge. How safe is it to fly drones in different environments? Should drones be required for visual line of sight – as are piloted airplanes? Join EE Times' Junko Yoshida as she moderates a panel of drone experts.