MWC: It’s only a matter of time before a drone kills someone, warns IEEE


BARCELONA: It’s only a matter time before a drone such as the one that crashed outside the White House will fall out of the sky and kill someone.

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This is the stark warning issued by theInstitute of Electronics and Electrical Engineering (IEEE) this week at Mobile World Congress (MWC).

Kevin Curran, senior lecturer in Computer Science at the University of Ulster, and technical expert for internet and security at the IEEE, told The INQUIRER that making “powerful” drones available to the consumer market will lead to civilians being injured or even killed.

“Up until last year, most people flying [drones] were guys who were used to flying planes, but when something powerful becomes cheap, and it hits the consumer market, you get all sorts of idiots using it,” he said.

“People are just flying drones wherever they can and it is only a matter of time before we see a death in the UK from a drone.”

Curran explained that this could happen if a drone hits a building without the propeller guards up.

“Once drones hit a solid item [without propeller guards up] they fall from the sky; that’s all they can do. And I guarantee that there’ll be a lot of accidents in the next 12 months and I’m pretty sure we’ll see a death,” he said.

Since Curran’s comments at MWC, a House of Lords committee has said that the UK should create a database of drone owners and flights in order to circumvent possible threats.

The EU Internal Market, Infrastructure and Employment Sub-Committee report said that, while drones have the potential to create 150,000 jobs in Europe by 2050, there is also a substantial risk from their unregulated use.

Committee chairwoman Baroness O’Cathain said: “The growth in civilian drone use has been astonishing and they are taking to the skies faster than anyone could have predicted. We have a huge opportunity to make Europe a world leader in drone technology.

“But there’s also a risk. Public understanding of how to use drones safely may not keep pace with people’s appetite to fly them. It would just take one disastrous accident to destroy public confidence and set the whole industry back.”

Due to these concerns, the committee said that a database of drone owners should be created, and that all flights should be tracked by GPS and uploaded to a public website for anyone to access.

It’s also worth noting that drones like the Hubsan X4 Pro, which was unveiled at CES this year, are safer than your standard drone becaue they are fitted with a parachute that activates after a collision.

Making these parachutes available as an attachment for existing drones could ease the concerns about a death from someone being hit, according to Curran.

Curran also said that we can expect to see drones as a form of wireless advertising in the skies very soon, hovering in the streets for maximum visibility.