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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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One dollar, one vote

14 June 2019

Being somewhat of a masochist at heart (or at least so it appears), I subjected myself to almost two and a half hours of political discussion and debate yesterday.

The session in question was held in the UK parliament and related to the vexing problem of how to protect that nation from evil drones (and children with toys).

Titled "The domestic threat of drones", the debate was originally supposed to talk about how these new-fangled flying devices could be integrated safely into the existing aviation framework but, as is always the case, the politicians decided to twist it around and get all hysterical about the "dangers" of drones, rather than focus on the original goal.

Now I knew that quite a few politicians were the kind of folk that only had one oar in the water; were a few sandwiches short of a picnic; had the lights on while no-one was home; you know, that sort of thing -- but I was kind of gobsmacked at how bad some of them really are.

Even the few that seemed to start out with some sensible and well planned questions ended up taking the ludicrous "word" of "officials" as gospel and without challenge -- showing that even when properly primed, these people are little more than damp squibs.

For the record, if anyone else wants to submit themselves to the torture that is 150 minutes of politicians talking to drone-geeks then here is the link.

I will be doing a video on my XJet YouTube channel, highlighting the best and worst moments of this discussion but I'll also highlight some of the "gems" in today's column for those who might want to get a taste for what's going on in the high echelons of UK government and control.

When asked "how many drones are there?" (paraphrased), the UK regulator had to admit that they didn't know. They added however, that the new registration scheme which comes into effect on October 1 was created so as to give them this information.

Sounds great eh?

Yes, except that the new registration scheme doesn't actually require each drone to be registered individually. The *owners* are registered and given a single number that they put on all their drones. Hence, the regulator will still have absolutely no idea how many drones there are, only how many drone-owners there are (assuming they all register, which they won't).

Clearly the regulator was misleading the parliamentary committee. They're allowed to do that?

Also of interest is that in the UK, just as in NZ, the government has effectively taken the drone regulation issue out of the hands of CAA and placed it in the hands of The Department For Transport (MOT in NZ). This clearly speaks to the fact that the regulations are not so much about safety as they are about control and the commercial value of the 0-400ft airspace. Anyone who doubts that drone-regulation around the world is being done for control purposes and as a way of monetizing the 0-400ft airspace need only read this story from the ABC in Australia where they report how Google has effectively been given a monopoly for the airspace from 0-400ft over Canberra.

And, here in New Zealand, it's also happening... as pointed out in this TVNZ story which shows that, yet again, a large chunk of airspace has been effectively turned into a commercial asset for the benefit of a single company engaged in drone operations.

I also had to laugh when the UK parliamentary committee raised the issue of privacy and drones.

Seriously?

After becoming perhaps the world's most active "surveillance state", with perhaps more state-owned CCTV cameras per head of population than any other country in the world, the UK government *now* wants to protect the public's right to privacy from drones with wide-angled cameras that can't make out a face beyond a few tens of metres away?

More evidence that these issues are all just red herrings to divert attention away from the fact that there's a huge cash-grab about to take place for this airspace -- airspace that, until now, has been the sole domain of a bunch of hobbyists with their toys.

I wrote a column about how the USA was a "one dollar, one vote" democracy. Well it certainly seems as if the UK is right up there with them now -- and New Zealand can't be far behind.

What do readers think?

Is the strategy of these governments (attempting to turn the 0-400ft airspace into a commercial asset that will be sold to the highest bidder but doing so under the fraud of "increasing safety and privacy") so transparent as to be laughable?

Remember the old joke about taxing the air we breathe?

"Are we there yet?"

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