The need for safety regulations around unmanned aircraft has never been clear than it now, after a runaway drone in England hit a toddler, slicing his eyeball which then had to be removed.
According to The Telegraph, 16-month-old Oscar Webb was playing in his family’s front yard when a quadcopter drone being flown by family friend Simon Evans hit a tree and suddenly spun out of control. On its way down, the drone hit Oscar in the face, slicing through his right eyeball. Despite prompt medical attention, the eyeball eventually had to be removed.
This isn’t the first time a remote-controlled aircraft has done serious damage to a nearby individual. In 2013, a Brooklyn man was fatally wounded when the RC helicopter he was piloting in a public park struck him and cut off the top of his head.
The FAA’s official regulations on these sorts of unmanned aircraft have yet to be finalized, but the basics are mostly in place. The FAA’s first batch of proposed rules would limit drone flight to a maximum of 400 feet, prohibit flight within five miles of an airport, and require operators to keep their craft within their line of sight. Further recommendations include required registration for any pilot flying drones over a 250 grams in weight, proposed by a task-force made up of a number of parties including drone makers, safety agencies, and potential drone delivery services.
Of course these rules mostly serve to prevent drone from hitting other aircraft and to ensure that drone pilots can be identified should something bad happen. The regulations as proposed would not do a whole lot to prevent cases like Oscar’s, where a bystander is accidentally hit by a low-flying drone, and the pilot openly admits to being behind the wheel. Local laws could restrict flight even more though; New York City in particular is flirting with an extremely strict drone ban, doubtlessly due in part to its extremely dense population.
Drone regulation—commercial and recreational—certainly won’t prevent all accidents but it’s an important step in setting a framework of safety and codifying an important truth: these aren’t toys.
Regulations are set to be finalized in the United States sometime in 2016.