Saturday, 5 May 2018

Bureaucratic Morass

Authorities Droning On About Drones

Some breaches of natural law are just so obvious that it would be reasonable to expect quick, decisive action by governing authorities.  But when the authorities, if questioned, stare off into the middle distance and provide "bureaucratic-buck-passing responses" everybody knows intuitively that the authorities are boondoggled. 

We have just such a situation in New Zealand.  Drones are a recent technological innovation.  Used properly and responsibly they are can be a very useful invention. And so it is proving to be in New Zealand.  But the law and its bureaucrats are way behind the technology and its uses.  Sooner or later (probably sooner) innocent people are going to get hurt, whether it comes from a drone crashing into an approaching aircraft or from public outrage over egregious breaches of privacy.

A perfect illustration of the bureaucratic boondoggle over drones appeared recently in the press.  As you read the text, picture the Great Grimpen Mire of a bureaucratic slimy morass oozing forth its methane saturated fog.

Horse riders and farmers fed up with unmanned aerial drones traumatising animals want to start shooting them "out of the sky".  After a Dannevirke horse-rider posted on social media about being harassed by a drone operated by an unseen person, a host of people suggested drones should, and could, be shot if they flew over a farm and were worrying animals.

The southern Hawke's Bay settlement of Herbertville has locals annoyed about visitors using drones to chase people and horses. There is talk that residents may take the law into their own hands and shoot them down.  When approached by Hawke's Bay Today to clarify whether a drone could be legally shot at over a farm, the Police said a number of agencies, including CAA [Civil Aviation Authority] and the Privacy Commissioner, had a role to play in relation to the use of drones.

"If a remotely piloted aircraft operation causes a safety risk to persons, property or other aircraft, police will respond and take all the details for forwarding to the CAA.   "Police access every situation on its merits.  Any person using a firearm must do so lawfully and there are a range of offences that can apply based on the facts of each situation."

The use of drones is restricted under the Civil Aviation Act, which states that drone operators usually need consent from land and park owners prior to flying over either council-owned or privately-owned land.  The act also ensures drones must remain within the controller's line of sight, unless special permission is obtained. [NZ Herald]
 One can imagine the suave tones emanating from the Police Spokesman as he took on the mien of a bureaucrat straight out of Yes, Minister:  in the event of a drone behaving badly, "police will respond and take all the details for forwarding to the CAA."

One horse wrangler described her experiences with drones:
Keiasha McGhie from Dannevirke said she had now has several unfriendly encounters with unmanned craft with no controller in sight that had left two horses traumatised.  "I ride my horses at Herbertville on the beach and on the roads, also on private farm land.  So far I've had drones chase my horses around the paddocks and while out riding. I have clients' horses here for training so it can be bit of a hassle if the horses get hurt by being chased from the drones.  My usual bombproof horse that has been worked on a farm his whole life and used to all sorts of unusual things reared up and tried to fight a drone that came close enough I could have touched it.

"Drones are becoming a big safety issue as you don't need a licence or permit to drive one. There's not much anyone can do at the moment especially if you can't find the controllers so people like myself tend to take matters into our own hands when it comes to the safety of our clients and my own horses and stock."
The public are clearly seeing right through the bureaucratic fog: 
A Federated Farmers spokeswoman said it was legal - under the Dangerous Dogs Act - for a farmer to shoot a dog worrying stock or poultry but this applied to only dogs, not drones.  "As far as we are aware there are no rules about shooting unmanned aerial drones."  A CAA spokesman added police would be involved if a drone was shot at.  Any dangerous drone activity should be reported on the CAA website, he said.
The bureaucrats are merely playing "pass the parcel" games. 
Hastings certified drone operator Tim Whittaker said had permission not been obtained for the drone operator to fly over McGhie's property then there was "no excuse" for the operators actions.  He recommended the incident be reported to the CAA because drone operators could "absolutely be nailed for that".  However, Whittaker added a bigger issue with amateur drone users was the sheer number of them.  "I've heard anecdotally, daily stories of people flying illegally.

"I don't think CAA are doing enough, I don't think they realise how big it is.  What I see as the big issue is essentially CAA's role in education the public involve issuing a tiny bit of paper directing a new drone owner to a website to familiarise themselves with the rules.  "Except can you imagine a dad and son or daughter with a drone they have just bought from Harvey Norman wanting to even read that piece of paper?  The first thing they will want to do is charge it up and fly the thing."
If you happen to be one of the people killed when some horses bolted, be comforted--your death may not be in vain.  What is needed is a sufficiently large catastrophe involving drones to move the torpid authorities to action.  Until that happens take notes and send them to the CAA.  They will refer them to the NZ Police, who will put them in the "overload" basket.  But whatever you do, don't shoot drones acting as an unlawful nuisance out of the sky.  In that case, the Police will respond, take notes, and forward the matter to the CAA and the Privacy Commissioner.

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