Drone Near Air Force 1? If That’s True – or Not – it Could Spell Trouble

drone near air force 1

 U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau

News and Commentary. Was there a drone near Air Force 1 as President Trump flew into Andrews Air Force Base?  If so, there’s a problem for the drone industry.  And if not, there’s a problem for the drone industry.

Last week, Sebastian Smith, a reporter covering the White House who was traveling with President Trump on Air Force 1 reported an event with a “small object” – and made his opinion that there was a drone near Air Force 1 public.

Other passengers on the flight also picked up – publicly – on the discussion.

Drone industry stakeholders on Twitter pointed out that eyewitness reports were notoriously inaccurate.  Some pointed out the potential damage to the industry. Others made the obvious point that given the anti-drone technology currently available, the history of problems at airports, and the level of protection given to Andrews Air Force Base it was incredibly unlikely that an unauthorized drone would make it that close to President Trump.  One person pointed out that if it were a drone near Air Force 1, it was probably a legitimate part of the security procedure – and totally authorized.

But.

Following those comments was the inevitable discussion from the general public, which immediately assumed one version of the incident: there was a drone near Air Force 1.  Dangerously near, and flown by an unauthorized operator.  Commenters called for the operator to be “found and jailed.”  Many commenters expressed their fears that drone “incidents” were getting more and more frequent.

Most disturbing were the news articles that followed.  Most used headlines that moved from “near” to “near miss” – an expression which clearly implies a devastating potential result.

It is these type of “incidents” – unreported officially except by a bystander who readily admits that he isn’t certain of what he saw – that can do the most damage to the drone industry.  We need more investigation, more facts, more tools to debunk these stories – or, prove them true and take steps to eliminate the risk.  These stories are the background that the drone industry is fighting against when it tries to change public opinion about drone delivery or drone inspection – and true or false, they don’t help the drone industry.

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Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry.  Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.

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