Until recently drones were only scary as an Orwellian all-seeing-eye, but now they appear to be a physical threat too. A drone collided with an athlete at an event knocking her down bleeding – she ended up in hospital with three stiches in her head.
The drone was filming the Australian triathlon under the control of its owner Warren Abrams. He claims the drone was hacked and dropped near to competitor Raija Ogden, who was spooked by it and fell. "She looks over her shoulder and gets frightened, falling to the ground and bumping her head, but the drone didn't actually strike her," he said. She claims it stuck her.
Abrams told ABC Radio that someone had "channel hopped" the device, gaining control of it. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) spokesman Peter Gibson said he was confident sophisticated drones used in commercial operations would not be able to be controlled or hacked in that way. CASA also pointed out that all drones should be operated a minimum of 30 metres away from people. Current UK guidelines from the Civil Aviation Authority allow an aircraft of under 7KG to be flown without a licence
Geraldton Triathlon Club president Simon Teakle said an investigation would be held. All operators of unmanned aircraft used in a commercial capacity are required to be certified. Abrams volunteered to film a live stream of the event but was not registered as certified.
This accident was avoidable but unfortunately goes to show drones can be dangerous. Future legislation could end up limiting their use to certain trained pilots or ban them from particular areas all together.
It's an interesting time for drones. You may one day tell your grandchildren you remember when anyone could fly drones, and they'll look baffled like someone telling you now they used to drive without a licence.