Cool and smart gadgets can often have unacceptable and unwanted consequences. That’s one of the reasons why people used to smash machines. And it’s hard not to feel a tinge of sympathy for the likes of Luddites and Swing Rioters when we see the perverse ways technology can be used in 2023.
At least these protesters had the excuse that they were trying to save their jobs and protect the value of their artisan skills from the inevitable and impoverishing progress of automation. But such an excuse is not found in the malicious use of equipment that is readily—perhaps too readily—available across the store counter.
Dublin Airport was forced to temporarily suspend flights for half an hour on Thursday night due to drone activity near the airport. It was the sixth such disruption in recent weeks, sparking fury among passengers and combustible Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary.
Disruption caused by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is not a new threat that appears out of nowhere on the horizon. We have commented on it for several years and the Irish Aviation Authority was one of the first regulators in the world, in 2015, to require mandatory drone registration for all machines weighing over 250 gm or equipped with cameras.
Operators are required to complete an online training course and display their ID on their machine. It is illegal to fly a machine within 5 km of an airport.
It is difficult to understand why this degree of foresight has not been accompanied by countermeasures at all commercial airports to remove such intruders, or why new legislation is required. If this was a machine in the hands of terrorists or a criminal enterprise, is it seriously being suggested that we would wait for the paperwork to pass through the Dáil?
It’s an unconvincing argument that most people will find confusing.
Likewise, there must be no sympathy for those who believe it is acceptable to point lasers into the cockpit to distract pilots and their crews, the most recent egregious example of this being an attack on an S92 Coast Guard search and rescue helicopter on a training flight over the Ballineen and Bandon area in Co Cork.
The consequences of the flight crew being distracted by a precise green light bouncing around the cabin and disorienting or even temporarily blinding them are easy to imagine. It is a hugely irresponsible act which should have a severe statutory punishment.
Laser pointers are powerful, relatively inexpensive, and readily available to everyone. It is hard to imagine that the world would be a poorer place if they were no longer available for sale, or that anyone would be much bothered except for teachers and professional presenters who like to use them to highlight the core of their arguments.