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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 24th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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First! (again)

29 June 2018

I had to laugh this week when I read a news story claiming that the first ever trans-Atlantic drone flight was about to take place.

Many news agencies and websites were carrying a story about the upcoming flight of a General Atomics MQ_9B SkyGuardian "remotely piloted aircraft" (aka "drone") and claiming that it would be a "first".

Seriously?

I have to say that I get rather annoyed when I read press releases coming out of an industry making bogus claims about "world first" and "cutting edge" activities when the reality is that many of these things were already done by hobbyists more than a decade ago.

First drone to cross the Atlantic?

Sorry... read about what Myanard Hill did back in 2003, a decade and a half ago.

So is it simply that hobbyists are so far ahead of the game that the industry has forgotten what they've done already?

But trans-Atlantic flights aren't the only example.

One of the big issues within the drone industry right now is something called BVLOS (beyond visual line of sight) flights.

The desk-pilots who make up the regulations have decided, in their infinite wisdom and with ZERO experience, that flying a drone/model further than you can see represents an unacceptable risk to other airspace users.

Here in New Zealand I cringed and moaned when I read this story claiming "It was New Zealand's first 'beyond line of sight' flight".

Bullshirt!

Hell, I was flying BVLOS nearly a decade ago and there are *plenty* of examples of people in NZ flying "drones" BVLOS right here in NZ, long before the company in the Stuff story claimed their "first".

So what can we draw from this?

Well firstly, the drone "industry", ie: those seeking to make money out of these things, is miles behind the expert recreational users of the technology. In the case of trans-Atlantic flights, the gap is 15 years in favour of the hobbyist and in the case of BVLOS the gap is over a decade.

Secondly, the fact that so many people have been engaging in BVLOS flying of drones (aka "model aircraft") for over a decade without a single reported instance of any damage to property, injury or death goes to show that the risk analysis performed by regulators (if they even bothered to do one) and on which the BVLOS ban is based, has been wildly inaccurate.

What is most concerning is that the "desk pilots" who are the regulators are coming out and making all sorts of claims as to the risks and dangers of this kind of activity without any consultation with those who have actually been doing it for a decade or more, and with clear ignorance of the 100% safety record associated with such activities to date.

The likes of CAA, the FAA, CASA and other regulatory authorities simply ignore the huge wealth of accumulated knowledge, experience and data that has been gathered by recreational fliers and instead pretend that this sort of thing never happens -- or worse, that if it were to happen, someone should be fined or imprisoned for doing it without the guidance and oversight of the very army of deskpilots who know nothing.

What a sad world we live in.

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