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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 19th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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The LCCM project a decade later

31 October 2014

It was over eleven years ago that I began my Low Cost Cruise Missile project, a project that was to create a huge amount of upheaval and grief in my life.

Back in 2003, I thought it important to warn "the powers that be" of the looming threat that rapidly developing technology could pose to public safety, in the wake of the then just announced "War Against Terror".

Even that long ago, it was becoming a practical reality for some evil sods to build their own guided missile, capable of delivering a deadly payload over significant distances, with lethal effect.

As usual, the very people I was trying to warn of this looming danger responded in completely the wrong way. Shoot the messenger and ignore the message was their strategy.

Well now it seems that they can no longer ignore the message. In fact, now they're very much aware that I was just a decade ahead of my time.

Finally, after eleven long years, governments are waking up to the fact that "off the shelf" technology offers terrorists and disaffected parties the capability of delivering lethal weaponry in a way that can sidestep most existing defenses.

Although they have been aware (since the LCCM project) of the risk for a long, long time, only now are they realising that it's time to try and come up with some kind of countermeasure to mitigate the risk.

This video shows just how seriously the NYPD are now taking the risk of such an attack:

This is what happens when you play ostrich and, instead of heading sage warnings from well-intentioned experts in the field, you opt instead to attack those experts and ignore the message.

Now I'm an avid RC model flier and I would hate to see these models regulated out of existence but unfortunately, because the authorities have ignored all the warnings, I fear that this is exactly what may happen.

If they'd been smart, they would have already regulated the technology such that there were legal specifications for range, height, etc.. and perhaps (as at least one commercial drone manufacturer has done of their own volition) built-in systems to automatically restrict where the craft can be flown.

It would be very simple to mandate that all the flight-controllers for these craft carry a piece of circuitry that would allow them to be shut-down by authorities on-demand, effectively scuttling any attempt at using them for nefarious purposes or effectively allowing "drone-free" zones to be set up around large gatherings or potential high-value targets.

Sadly, that horse has bolted and there's no way they're going to be able to introduce such measures now that the market is flooded with cheap Chinese products so that even if attempts were now made, these unrestricted systems would still find their way into the hands of "bad guys".

To be honest, I've given up trying to help out large organisations with their alleged attempts to improve safety. It is very clear that all too often, "safety" is not a goal but just an excuse for imposing rules and regulations, levying fees and charges, and generally engaging in silly politics and power-plays.

As regular readers already know, the agency charged with the responsibility for keeping our skies safe is, in my honest opinion, nothing more than an "old boy's club" which continues to ignore the warnings I've already given them about serious issues I have observed. Likewise they refuse to engage the new generation of recreational drone fliers in any effective way -- thus making it even more likely that "bad things" will happen in our own skies, mainly through ignorance of the technology and the rules.

I am a strong believer that the road to safety is made from education and a respect for good, sensible rules.

The agency concerned seems to discount the importance of education and believes that has a right to be respected rather than understanding that respect is something which must be earned by ones actions.

What do I do to keep things safe?

I spend large amounts of time and effort informing people about the technology they're using and fostering a culture of sensible decision-making. Here's my latest video and, as you can see from the comments, it's a piece of information that many folk were unaware of -- also information that is essential to the safe use of "drones" in our skies. I see nothing of this nature coming from those charged with preserving safety -- all I get are complaints, nagging and whining pointed in my general direction.

Once again, the sage warnings I've offered are being ignored and the assistance I've offered is being rejected. And, yet again, the messenger is being attacked for daring to be so bold as to suggest that action be taken *before* it's too late.

Who will pay the price for this arrogance on the part of those who claim to be working in the name of public safety?

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