|Major Cities Working Group was established to initiate dialogue between different drone users / Photo Credit: Thongsuk Atiwannakul (via Shutterstock)|
What should you do if someone operates a drone near you? Should you be a certain number of feet from the drone? Where should you move to? These are the questions that police, firefighters, and other stakeholders hope to clarify as part of the DRONERESPONDERS program’s new initiative called Major Cities Working Group, wrote Jed Pressgrove of smart media and research company Government Technology. The initiative launched during the Drone Journalism Leadership Summit in New York in November. The group was formed to establish to promote dialogue between different drone users who may face similar drones when flying drones in densely populated cities, as stated by Christopher Todd, executive director of the Airborne International Response Team, the nonprofit responsible for DRONERESPONDERS.
Richard Fields, administrative section chief of the Los Angeles Fire Department, recommended that the group develop a common understanding of what should happen when a drone is deployed during emergency situations. He compared this situation to the simple procedure that drivers follow when they see or hear an ambulance or firetruck. Fields took this example to the next step by emphasizing the need for public safety to be prepared if citizens don’t follow rules.
Public safety faces other challenges when flying drones in big cities such as pedestrian safety and infrastructure-related concerns, Fields said. The high number of buildings in a city, as well as their construction materials, can interrupt GPS and radio signals and obstruct a person’s line of sight. Drones heavily rely on GPS signals. When you are in an area like Times Square or Midtown Manhattan, your phone’s GPS thinks “that you're two blocks away from where you actually are. So similar problems occur with drones," said Deepu John, a New York City Police Department detective.
Then there is also the issue of regulating air traffic. Fields stated it’s important to prioritize altitude considering that public safety and non-public safety organizations “could have equally important reasons” to send drones to take videos and photos in the same urban airspace. Overall, public safety should be transparent and responsible with emerging technology, even if the truth may hurt citizens. “Whether you’re a police officer or a firefighter or a member of the news media, drones are becoming a commonality that everybody can kind of understand each other about,” Todd explained.