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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th 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 curse of technology

8 January 2019

Those who have been reading or watching the media over the festive break will be well aware that there have been some rather significant problems in respect to the misuse of technology, both in NZ and elsewhere in the world

Well perhaps I should say that "it has been reported" that there have been major problems because the reality may be somewhat different to the perception created by a mainstream media ravenously seeking eyeballs on screens and pages.

The problem is (allegedly) drones... sigh!

In the UK, Gatwick airport was closed down for over 24 hours, a period that actually spanned three days of operations.

Why?

Because someone *allegedly* saw a drone, or drones.

I say "allegedly" because despite the world's media camping at the airport and despite thousands of people milling around, waiting for the airport to re-open, not one single verified image of "the drone" or "drones" was presented as evidence by either the media or authorities.

As a result, the media's hysteria and the subsequent unjustified arrest of a middle-aged couple by police has created a significant kick-back from the more intelligent and less gullible members of the public.

I published a video on this incident on Christmas Eve and that video has received almost 100,000 views on YouTube:

Take a look at the 2000+ comments people have left on that video and it becomes very apparent that the public have had a guts-full of the hysteria, hyperbole and fake news that is all too common today.

The real reason for the closure of Gatwick has been widely speculated upon and it has been pointed out that a majority share of the airport was sold, just days later, to a French consortium who would have gained significant bargaining leverage in the wake of the shut-down.

Another rumour doing the rounds is that Gatwick's computer systems were actually hacked by person or persons unknown and that the drone story was presented as a way of avoiding the huge financial liabilities (to airlines and passengers) associated with such an event. By claiming "it was a drone/drones", the airport, and therefore the airlines, were able to avoid any claims for compensation under the terms of their provision of service.

Or perhaps, as others claim, it was a clever ploy by companies flogging "anti-drone" technology. In the wake of the incident, airports around the UK are spending huge sums (we're talking tens of millions) on counter-UAS technology, supposedly to prevent a recurrence of the threat.

However, let me remind you -- not a single drone was *evidenced* in the entire period of the incident, despite a massive media presence and scores of broadcast quality cameras being trained on the skies, day and night.

Yeah, it smells.

Meanwhile, closer to home, the Eagle Police helicopter was sent scurrying back to base and all operations were canceled on the eve of the New Year.

Why?

Was someone seen wandering the streets of Auckland with a Stinger surface to air missile?

Had someone phoned in a credible threat?

No, apparently it was because "we saw a drone".

Of course I also did a video on this incident which has gathered a credible 13,000+ views in the past few days.

I have heard that the reason the police helicopter was in the vicinity was because someone had reported seeing a drone -- so the Eagle was dispatched to investigate.

Excuse me?

If drones pose such a huge threat to helicopters that they need to be immediately landed whenever one is seen, what Mensa candidate decided to send the Eagle to investigate such a sighting. What's more, why were they so surprised and afraid when they actually saw a drone in the area where one was reported?

Note that in the video above, the UK police used their helicopter to follow a rogue drone back to its owner, who was subsequently arrested. Why can't our police do that -- why do they instead opt to run and hide?

I'm sure that there are plenty of villains who are now very much aware that if you don't what the police helicopter tracking you from the sky after you pull a bank job, all you have to do is launch a drone -- which will send them scurrying back to base in double-quick time.

And finally, another heli pilot, filming the NYE fireworks for TVNZ, complained that he'd seen as many as THREE drones flying when he was in the air and that this was very dangerous.

Excuse me?

Given that even relatively small, low-cost drones have UHD 4K cameras these days and produce absolutely stunning video -- why the hell was it considered to be a good/safe idea to use a huge turbine-powered manned helicopter to achieve the same results?

Why didn't TVNZ commission a drone to get this video instead?

Remember, a lot of this was done over built-up areas where it makes far more sense to use a lightweight, comparatively harmless drone to fly over people's houses, the roads and gatherings of the public -- than it does to use a tonne or more of metal and hoist two or three people hundreds or thousands of feet into the sky.

And why did it come as a surprise to *anyone* that there were drones in the sky filming fireworks on NYE? If "the powers that be" and the pilots involved had spent just 5 minutes on YouTube they would have seen that this has become a thing all over the world. Every time there is a fireworks display, people post videos of the spectacle taken from their drones -- why would New Zealand be any different?

What we've learned from these incidents is that the media-induced hysteria relating to drones is crippling the world and even causing seasoned law enforcement officers to engage in knee-jerk reactions (ie: the arrest of innocent people without evidence) or to run away and hide (as in the Eagle operations).

I should point out that I contacted virtually every media outlet in New Zealand and a good many overseas ones during these incidents and pointed out the things they had failed to mention or the obvious inconsistencies in the stories being told.

Interestingly (but not surprisingly), they totally ignored the *facts* and continued to publish the "allegations" and "hype". We're talking BBC, The Guardian, the NZ Herald, Stuff, Newshub and just about every other "supposedly" credible news source.

No wonder people are turning to Facebook and YouTube for their news.

Ah well, hopefully this will be the end of drone hysteria, at least for a little while and I'll be able to get back to more interesting and positive commentary.

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