No One Is Coming For your Drones Or Selfie Sticks

Governmental regulations are a hot topic in the news these days, but rarely do they have an impact on the tools we use for photography. Recently, however, we discussed the growing nuisance—or possibly danger—to people or property caused by the ubiquitous “selfie stick.” A growing number of museums and other public venues have taken action— not only on inexpensive selfie sticks, but tripods, full-size monopods, and even umbrellas.

A couple weeks ago, however, a more serious and potentially deadly issue came to the forefront when several privately owned drones prevented helicopters with water buckets from fighting a wildfire that jumped a Los Angeles freeway. As a result, the nation watched horrifying images of stranded automobiles burning unabated for 20 minutes because the choppers were grounded until drones cleared the area.

Unfortunately, the danger caused by “hobby drones” hovering over wildfires isn’t exactly a new phenomenon, and in condemning the recent activity in California officials had this to say: “Fortunately, there were no injuries or fatalities to report, but the 15 to 20 minutes that those helicopters were grounded meant that 15 to 20 minutes were lost that could have led to another water drop cycle, and that would have created a much safer environment and we would not have seen an many citizens running for their lives.”

All this is happening at the same time photographers, hobbyists, commercial industry, and others are pushing for more freedom to use drones, while officials on the national level are discussing more ways to regulate them.

Most of us are comfortable with the notion of turning off cell phones while flying (although I’ve never been asked to turn off my WiFi-enabled camera). But as technology advances, so do concerns regarding the potential danger of new technologies. So while no one is coming for your drone (or your selfie stick or WiFi camera), it really boils down to using some common sense. Do it.