Category Archives: Thoughts

Some of my thoughts, ideas and other text based entries

Drones, Quadcopters, UAVs, Guns and Turtles

With Christmas rapidly approaching I expect quite a few drones/quadcopters/UAVs have been purchased (or will be purchased shortly) to be found under Christmas trees the next few days (depending on where you live).

At the same time there’s still a lot of scaremongering going on in the popular press about them bringing down planes and causing all kinds of other havoc. This has recently brought the FAA in the US to introduce mandatory registration for all drones heavier than half a pound (and heavy fines for failing to register a drone). To many this smells of overkill (pun intended) with some interesting reactions:

I’ll Register My Drone When You Have to Register Your Gun

Indeed, you can buy a gun (designed to kill things) without much hassle (and no registration) in many states in the US, but even a fairly small toy drone requires registration. Somehow doesn’t seem proportional.

Slightly tongue in cheek, but also with a serious background about how humans perceive risks, Popular Science titles:

Airplanes hit more turtles than drones – as of press time, no FAA calls for turtle a registry

From that article you might also want to follow the link to Could drones pose a threat to airplanes? for some more realistic thoughts about the risks (or rather largely lack of it).

Nevertheless, should you find a drone (or better a quadcopter or UAV, drone is frequently associated with the military type) under your Christmas tree I would urge you to not just take it out of the box, charge it and fly the same day. Instead, read up on it as much as you can. Study the manual. Learn about the weather. Think about getting insurance in case something goes wrong. Visit the forums of the manufacturer and read about the mistakes others made in order to avoid them (e.g. try the DJI Forums if it’s a Phantom or Inspire and read posts like TOP 10 common pilot errors). While I’m against the overregulation I think we’re beginning to see I’m also of the opinion they are not a toy and need to be handled with great care and responsibility. Think before you fly.

I’ve walked/driven over that bridge, now it’s gone

If you actually know a place in the news it makes it much more real than if it’s a place you’ve never even heard of. I’ve been to Pooley Bridge twice, among other things to go on an Ullswater Steamer cruise. While there I crossed the bridge giving the village its name a couple of times, both in the car and on foot.

Picture of an old bridge over a river
Pooley Bridge in April 2012

Storm Desmond and the related rain has now destroyed the old bridge, built in 1764. Not to mention the flooding and misery it has brought to other parts of Cumbria. Carlisle (where I usually stay overnight on my journeys to Islay) has also been badly hit. I’m not sure of the exact area, but I believe one of the hotels where I sometimes stay is flooded as is the park where I go for my morning run.

As far as I know nobody has died and I hope it stays that way, at least people seem to be safe. Still, it will be a long hard slog for those impacted by the floods.

The privacy risks of Big Data

Kind of a follow up to the It’s not a question of if, but only of when post from a few weeks ago. A fascinating but also scary read how it is possible to identify individuals from theoretically anonymised data:

Riding with the Stars: Passenger Privacy in the NYC Taxicab Dataset

Similar to this there is a lot of information in an itemised bill. Or a record of all websites visited…

It’s not a question of if, but only of when…

… there will be a breach and some ISPs data of this will be leaked, causing all kinds of embarrassment for a lot of people (including those of the “I’ve got nothing to hide” brigade).

I wonder if Teresa May will laugh it off then as in her response to Keith Vaz:

Noting Mrs May likened it to an itemised phone bill, the Labour MP said:

There is a lot of information in an itemised bill. If I was to look at her itemised telephone bill and she was to look at mine, she might be surprised at who were were phoning.”

 “Speak for yourself”, someone could be heard shouting from the green benches – which Mrs May quipped was the “right response”.

PS: This is also a fairly comprehensive analysis of the surveillance bill draft announced today, including the risk of breaches