Drones conjure up a Jekyll-and-Hyde duality. On the one hand, there are the silent killer Predators, lobbing bombs overseas and vanishing into the sky. On the other hand, drones on the homefront seem like harmless toys used by hobbyists to capture cool video footage from high above.
It turns out gentler drones get destructive in their own ways. With prices dropping, the technology has proliferated—there are now swarms of them available for under $300. The most alarming effect of this rising availability became clear in a recent announcement by the Federal Aviation Administration: Aircraft pilots have reported a record 650 drone sightings in 2015 so far, up from 238 sightings for all of 2014. Seeing a drone is just a step away from hitting one, and drones have interfered with aerial firefighting efforts in California while injuring bystanders elsewhere by crashing into them.
The scary thing is, the FAA has almost no power to regulate hobby drones. Faced with a high-tech Wild West, it’s up to state and local governments to keep the buzzing contraptions in check before they get out of control. Reporter Craig Whitlock captured the scope of the problem in a recent article for The Washington Post:
In recent days, drones have smuggled drugs into an Ohio prison, smashed against a Cincinnati skyscraper, impeded efforts to fight wildfires in California, and nearly collided with three airliners over New York City.
Earlier this summer, a runaway two-pound drone struck a woman at a gay pride parade in Seattle, knocking her unconscious.…