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Five times drones have done more harm than good

Posted by in Science & Technology on Friday, March 4, 2016

A remote-controlled quadcopter with a GoPro mount, commonly used for aerial photography. (Photo: Ron McCullough/Flickr)

Yesterday, we explored some of the ways unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, are being used to help with everything from wildlife research to international aid.

But, like any technology, drones are only as helpful as the people operating them. Here are five examples of how drones can sometimes do more harm than good.

Disturbing wildlife

Parks Canada has had to ban the recreational use of drones because their presence can be disturbing to people and wildlife. Across the globe this year there have been multiple incidents of people flying drones too close to animals. At Zion National Park in Utah, young bighorn sheep were separated from their herd by a drone, which placed the animals under tremendous stress.

Interrupting weddings

Drones are ideal for shooting beautiful aerial footage, so it’s no wonder they have become the latest trend in wedding photography. But in one case, a photographer has gotten millions of views on one of his wedding videos not because of its beauty, but because the groom almost lost an eye. The photographer lost control of his drone and struck the groom; luckily he only suffered minor cuts.

Trafficking drugs

Transporting materials has become easier with drones, but people have starting transporting more than just pizzas. Recently, drones have been caught smuggling drugs into prisons, including in Canada. The president of Quebec’s correctional officers’ union tells the Ottawa Sun incidents of drones carrying illicit substances are a frequent occurrence in Quebec prisons.

Disrupting athletic events

As if swimming, running and cycling wasn’t enough of a challenge, triathlon athletes now have to watch for falling drones. A competitor in an Australian triathlon was struck in the head by a falling drone and needed stitches. The drone operators claimed the drone had been hacked, causing it to plummet 10 metres onto the runner’s head.

Colliding with aircraft

As if it weren't bad enough that drones are colliding with humans and animals, they've also been getting dangerously close to airplanes. This month, a drone flew just 4.8 metres from an Air France plane, making it the closest encounter yet between a UAV and a civilian aircraft. In the past years, hundreds of planes have spotted drones flying too closely, making them a serious collision threat.

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