back to article Drones need their own version of Asimov's laws of robotics – MEPs

The European Parliament’s civil liberties committee on Thursday warned lawmakers to take concerns about data protection and surveillances seriously in drawing up new rules for drones. The opinion, approved by 50 votes to four, will now be sent to the Parliament’s transport committee, which is leading the charge in coming up …

  1. Rusty 1

    What if I ...

    Wednesday's Dilbert is so appropriate!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    simple rules

    1) all UAV operators must hold a current PPL

    2) All Operators must have £10,000,000 in public liability insurance (minimum) [1]

    3) All Operators must take a competency test in drone operations before they are allowed to fly unsupervised

    [1] It is only a matter of time before one of these things drops out of the sky and injures or even kills an innocent bystander

    I seem to have at least one drone flying over my home most weekends. Ok, they make a change from those effing Chinooks but it is obvious that the pilot can't control it properly.

    1. rh587 Silver badge

      Re: simple rules

      "1) all UAV operators must hold a current PPL"

      You can fly manned aircraft without needing a PPL. For UAV it's gross overkill and not actually necessarily the most appropriate qualification. Also, are you going to extend that to the diddy indoor rigs people are using for drone racing? Grouping diddy racing drones in the same category as big rigs carrying kilos of camera is downright silly.

      It's rather more nuanced than that (you know, the same reason you need different licences to fly helicopters, Cessnas and Learjets).

  3. pewpie

    Drone buyers beware..

    I have a scoped-out high powered air-rifle - just for your wayward toy of delusion. Pull, you fuckers!

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Drone buyers beware..

      What goes up, must come down - including bullets/pellets.

      In most countries shooting like that will have you up on criminal charges of reckless endangerment, because you can't see where they're going to land.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Drone buyers beware..

        What goes up, must come down - including bullets/pellets.

        In most countries shooting like that will have you up on criminal charges of reckless endangerment, because you can't see where they're going to land.

        Isn't that what shotguns were invented for?

      2. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: Drone buyers beware..

        What goes up, must come down - including bullets/pellets.

        The terminal velocity of an air rifle pellet is pretty low. I have no plans to test if this is still high enough to do someone an injury, though.

        1. Trigonoceps occipitalis Silver badge

          Re: Drone buyers beware..

          "The terminal velocity of an air rifle pellet is pretty low."

          The terminal velocity is pretty much zero, unless it sticks in or on the drone, squirrel, cat etc.

      3. macjules Silver badge

        Re: Drone buyers beware..

        If said pellet/bullet is firmly lodged in a vital part of a rapidly descending drone then I think it is safe to say that you can see it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Drone buyers beware..


      Strange reply to irresponsible and probably illegal activity of some UAV users, to illegally and irresponsibly use another "self control required" hobby against it. You are not part of the UAV solution you may be part of another problem.

      I could be wrong, you might have tens of acres so can be sure no projectile from your air gun will lave your property but I'll take a punt on not. I've used both and the biggest threats to both hobbies is idiots, you see they get everywhere and risk the pursuit for others.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Drone buyers beware..

      I would rather have a maniac with a small drone than a maniac with an air rifle any day.

      1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Re: Drone buyers beware.. @ Smooth Newt

        Virtually word-for-word what I was going to write. Guns are going to kill and injure far more people in the future than drones ever will. Proportionality is important.

  4. macjules Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Rise of the killer drones?

    Having worked at one government department which thought that 'Welcome to Stratford 2012' was actually a tourist advert for Shakespeare Country I am pretty sure that if we are talking about 'killing drones' then DEFRA will start culling all bees instead.

    Despite that, exactly how are they going to enforce those regulations anyway? Counter-Drones? Black-clad, masked Eurodrone cops, armed with coil guns?

  5. Alister Silver badge

    Asimov's Laws

    1/ A Drone may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

    2/ A Drone must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

    3/ A Drone must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

    Great, now all we need is the Zeroth Law:

    0/ All Drone Manufacturers should include an AI clever enough to successfully interpret the other three laws.

    This may take some time...

    1. Michael Strorm

      Spurious attempt to add Asimov's gravitas to unrelated regulations

      I thought the whole point of Asimov's "three laws" stories- which too many people seem to forget when they invoke them in a pat manner- was to explore the *potential loopholes* and *unforeseen consequences* of any such attempt to codify behaviour in what at first might seem a clear, straightforward and logical manner.

      Besides which, the three laws were in effect aimed at the artificial intelligence underlying these robots. Current consumer drones are human-controlled with (at most) limited automatic behaviour in certain situations that doesn't come close to Asimov-level "intelligence", though it's possible the proposers might have more advanced military applications in mind.

      These potential regulations are likely to have more to do with rules surrounding air safety and social privacy. It's not clear how much- if at all - AI is intended to enter into this.

      1. Alister Silver badge

        Re: Spurious attempt to add Asimov's gravitas to unrelated regulations

        @Michael Strorm

        Besides which, the three laws were in effect aimed at the artificial intelligence underlying these robots. Current consumer drones are human-controlled with (at most) limited automatic behaviour in certain situations that doesn't come close to Asimov-level "intelligence",

        That was rather my point...

    2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: Asimov's Laws

      By coincidence, I started re-reading Asimov's "I, Robot" (the real one with the collection of short stories threaded together as Susan Calvin's memoirs, not anything related to the execrable film of the same name) last night. It has been a long time since I last read it, and I've got a lot more education in relevant areas since the last time. Two things struck me fairly quickly: a) "harm" needs a lot of definition (leading to the Zeroth Law, of course), and b) they are cautionary tales. Asimov seemed to be saying that there is no effective way of controlling autonomous machines because they are, well, autonomous!

  6. Francis Boyle Silver badge

    I think there are four MEPs

    "who" need to be inspected for signs of glowing eyes, backbones, etc.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    A matter of perception

    I don't recall any similar fuss about people using RC helicopter or fixed-wing models despite them being in use for decades.

    Is the camera attached to the drone the real issue? Is it the perceived connection with military spy drones? The possibility of remote assassination?

    As I've mentioned here previously, I won't play with my quadcopter in public precisely because of the general perception.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: A matter of perception

      Here in Germany at least there are a lot of restrictions of what, where and when you can fly, when it comes to remote controlled aircraft. You can't fly them in built up areas, for example.

      And they used to be expensive enough and difficult enough to fly that your average idiot couldn't afford to be stupid with them. Drones are robuster, quieter than helicopters and are often flown illegally over built up areas by idiots that don't know better... Having a GoPro strapped on is just another nail in the drones coffin.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: A matter of perception

        "Here in Germany ..."

        There are similar rules/laws in the UK. Probably across much of the EU, I would expect the same rules to apply to drones etc anyway with little more required than publicity campaigns rather than new and specific laws which, despite being specific, will actually be quite a bit woolly causing most people to ot understand them until some poor sap end up with a fine or in court.

        1. Trigonoceps occipitalis Silver badge

          Re: A matter of perception

          ... will intentionally be quite a bit woolly allowing the boys in blue to misuse them so some poor sap ends up with a fine or in court for a non-drone related incident.


    2. Sporkinum

      Re: A matter of perception

      General perception of drones

  8. Slartybardfast

    Floating operators?

    "in Berlin, operators need a licence to fly higher than 30 metres"

    I thought the operators stayed on the ground.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Floating operators?

      I think this refers to how much pot you're allowed to smoke and remain in charge of a drone.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I thought it was simple ..

    Originally I thought it would be good if a law would require drone operators not to enter areas marked with a "no drones" sign on penalty of fines and declaring the drone in that position eligible to be destroyed without any compensation for damage, but the problem is that you cannot see that you enter such a zone when it's in the air.

    This is not an easy one, but I can tell you one thing: if someone works out a reasonably cost effective way and safe way to shoot drones they'd have quite a market - a market that would not exist if some drone users didn't fail to behave responsibly. As usual, the few stupid idiots ruin it for the rest, so I'm not surprised we're now heading for regulation in all its ugly forms.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One very good reason for proper regulation

    One of these things will kill someone very soon IMHO.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: One very good reason for proper regulation

      They already have in the middle east.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Here is at least one that's easy to take down..

    This one provides at least an easy target.

    Bonus: it runs out of batteries in 3 minutes, and you can clearly see who the operator is :).

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We have rules, and fools.

    If you want to use a UAV in a built up area you must be prepared to have the vehicle driven at full chat into your body with just normal clothes on, if that idea makes you wince you should not consider its use around people.

    The DJI's and clones risk damage to the hobby as they are consistently sold on the “anyone, in five minutes” ticket, if anyone can get going without any other control, training or test then the onus is on the individual to reduce risk and protect others, if the advert says “anyone in five minutes they must mean me and right here!” DJI and some traders looking to ride the wave risk driving us all onto rocks.

    A bicycle is a dangerous device, people are killed by them, and on them, but we mostly leave the control and activity to society, there are so many upsides of cycling the trade off is worth it.

    It's early days but the opportunities provided by UAV's could benefit so many more than just the geeks and lads inspired by 250-Class racing but until you have strapped on some FatSharks and been flown around some beautiful, or exciting location, it won't make much sense, there is something very deep about the perception of flight from the first person viewpoint.

    Like bikes, once it goes over a certain speed or weight it's a different class of risk so takes on more licensing and test responsibility. The UK UAV laws are currently quite specific, I could (almost) safely fly a QAV250 type around my street but it's not legal, I could record with a camera but I'd have to go at least another 100m to do so legally, the problem is in the UK that to get 150m from a built up area is quite hard for many people, the guy in London, Manchester looking to get started is probably going to break regulations to get going so then people assume the regulations are the problem

    I know that is using the 150m "recording with a camera" distance but most people seem to think all quads have them, with yet to be invented stabilised super-zoom spy lenses.

    Right now we are gathering opinions from those who have never ridden a bicycle on control of bikes.

    YouTube channels with examples of the technology, small flying things you pilot from a chair. Let some of us learn to ride bikes then come back with ideas?

    BMSWEB (general)

    Mr Steele (mad as a box)

    Painless360 (setup)

    (there are others with fantastically valuable info like RCModelReviews but he is being shut out by the old school RC club)

  13. Yugguy

    Just dont be a twat

    If you want fly it fine, just fly it out in the country or on wasteland and not over my house.

    Trouble is most people are twats these days.

  14. Ru'

    ...and the twats won't be affected by any new laws. No doubt there are already decent laws for this type of thing; we really don't want any knee-jerk new ones, which no doubt will be worded so vaguely that they will be applied to other things.

  15. UncleZoot

    Government is always behind technology. What they don't understand they regulate. Not going to change in the foreseeable future.

    I've flown nitro copters for years, the past 6 years with a camera mounted. Stabilized gimbals were few and far between as well as a system to stabilize flight. Along came DJI with the Phantom series quads and Light Bridge first person viewing the the world exploded.

    Too many different government agencies have their hands into attempting to regulate UAV's and as such, the current regulations don't work, sort of like Mozilla with FireFox

    For every system (geo fencing) put in place to restrict UAV flight, there's a cheap work abound.

    Education and licensing is the only thing that's going to work. Get caught with no license, lose your quad until you get the license. Infractions after that, huge fines for repeat offenders..

  16. Sicky337

    Hull flying club ( currently un named )

    We are trying to establish a club in Hull in the UK to teach the laws and safety of flying QUADCOPTERS and DRONES. We also aim to teach building, repairing and flying these RC craft on a hobby level and business level.

    Yes we will have insurance for every one in the club.

    We think that what we are doing is preventing RC craft and commercial aircraft flying in the same space.

    Preventing by education peoples privacy being invaded.

    Encouraging youngsters to get there adrenalin rush by way of quadcopter racing in FPV mode. First Person View Mode is achieved by flying the quadcopter wearing googles that receive a video link from the camera on the front of the craft. Rather them be doing this than stealing your vehicle and getting the adrenaline rush via that way

    Please dont confuse a drone with a quadcopter. Quadcopters are flown at low levels at high speed round a course built by the clubs. A drone is capable of automated flight, it uses range from private photography and video, search and rescue, inspection work and sadly in the governments case war. Excluding the government the law for flying quads and uav say the ceiling height for flight is 400 feet ( comercial helicopters fly as low as 500 feet hence why were are limited to 400 feet )

    This is why we aim to teach people about the fast forming hobby.

    Yes people who break the laws should be fined and the revenue of the fines should be fed back to support educational RC clubs

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