Thursday, February 11, 2016

Midnight Swims without Bathing Suits?

Maybe it’s the fine winter weather. Little snow to shovel. Some ice, but I’ve spread salt and sand on the driveway only once. Never any thought of having to shovel the roof.

With few winter chores, I’ve had more time to think. When I have too much time to think, I worry.

I have many things to fret about. Like, what if Donald Trump becomes the next leader of the free world? And, why is Justin the Good still grinning and taking selfies while the economy continues to sink? Then there is that constant worry about one day having to go to downtown Toronto.

And climate change. The world is melting. When spring comes and the mosquitoes return will they be carrying not just West Nile, but Zika virus and even chikungunya? I’m not sure what that last one is, but even its spelling looks dangerous.

This week my main worry is about drones. Drones are becoming so popular that I’m thinking maybe it’s time to wear a bathing suit on those midnight swims.

The Consumer Technology Association expects that one million drones will be sold in the U.S. this year. That’s an increase of 145 per cent over 2015.

More than 181,000 people in the U.S. have registered drones under the new Federal Aviation Administration drone rules laid down Dec. 21 last year.

We don’t know how many drones are being sold in Canada, or how many are being registered with Transport Canada. And that’s another worry. How is that a country with some of the world’s heaviest taxation loads doesn’t have current statistics?

All those drones buzzing around are worrisome. What will happen if one smacks into an aircraft windshield, or gets sucked into a jet engine?

Some countries, Canada included, are making rules to help prevent serious situations involving drones. Transport Canada has regulations prohibiting drones from flying higher than 90 metres, and within nine kilometres of a forest fire, airport or built up area. They can’t be flown over prisons, military bases, crowds of people or in restricted air space.

There is also the worry about what equipment these little buzzers can carry. There is talk about using them for pizza deliveries. If a drone can carry a pizza box, it certainly can carry a camera, firearm, or even a small bomb. Or drugs.

My biggest worry about drones, however, is privacy.

I worry that one morning I’ll step out of the shower to see a camera-equipped drone hovering outside the bathroom window. Although that might be more frightening for the viewer than for me.

Worse, what if a very astute fisherman like Steve Galea used a drone with camera to follow me to my secret fishing holes. Or, cottage visitors secretly viewing from above all the places where I stash my favourite beers and wines that I don’t want them to know about.

There are many private little places where I don’t want drones hovering.

Our federal government believes it is on top of the privacy concerns.  The federal privacy commissioner noted a couple years ago that checks and balances will become necessary as more people get drones. Transport Canada says it is working with the privacy commissioner’s office to make sure drone operators respect privacy laws.

That has me worried. Governments are known to say they plan to do lots of things that never get done.

My newest and greatest worry in all of this, however, is that I will succumb to the urge to buy my own drone. As a kid I flew model airplanes and loved it.

Owning a drone would open a world of new possibilities. I could fly it over my bush lot to check on intruders. Or check out deer movements for the hunting season.

When I’m on the bush lot cutting firewood I could send my drone back to the cottage with an order for beer.

Having my own drone could create other concerns, however. Would I spend too much time playing with it? Then who would cut my winter firewood? When would I find time to scope out where the deer are hiding?

I worry about these things. Maybe it would be better if there was more snow to shovel.


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