Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) is very concerned about drones. In Senate Commerce Committee hearings Wednesday, Feinstein said that her concern about drones stems in part from personal experience. She said that there was a demonstration outside her house, and she went to the window to pull the curtain back, to find that “there was a drone right there at the window lookout out at me.”
Or, in, since she was indoors.
She continued, as captured by Politico: “Obviously the pilot of the drone had some surprise because the drone wheeled around and crashed, so I felt a little good about that.”
What was this protest, and what was this “drone”? Who would fly a “drone” outside her house, and why?
The Wire sleuthed a bit and found out that the protest was a Code Pink demo last June 15, antagonizing Feinstein for supporting the NSA. It’s a bit ironic that Feinstein has such a problem with drone aircraft when she supports the much more pervasive NSA’s electronic snooping. In video and photos of the protest, aircraft are indeed visible, flying around outside Feinstein’s house.
They look like this.
If that’s the helicopter that Feinstein says so concerned her, she can rest a little easier. It’s not a drone. It’s a HotEnergy toy radio controlled helicopter available on Amazon for less than $50. It’s built for indoor use, which means it can’t even fly very high. It has LED lights on it to make it look a little more spiffy. It is not equipped with a camera. So whether it was six inches or six miles from the senator, no one was using it to look into her windows or at her in any way.
Feinstein says it wheeled around and crashed when the pilot saw her. Having flown similar (though not pink) toy helos myself, there’s even a more likely and more mundane explanation for the crash. Those little things are bloody hard to control. They crash all the time. Fear of her probably didn’t cause anything. Those helos tend to be unstable, and the pilot just probably wasn’t any good at flying it. Or maybe a little breeze blew it into a shrub.
Being concerned about the use of drones in civilian airspace and for who knows what purposes is valid. But if Feinstein doesn’t figure out the difference between a drone — an expensive aircraft usually equipped with video cameras that is not actively piloted and guides itself via a combination of hazard avoidance systems, GPS, artificial intelligence and programmed input — and a little flying toy that costs less than $50, she will end up seeking to ban some perfectly harmless items just to make sure no one flies one anywhere near her ever again.
We could have yet another instance when an ignorant, egotistical politician tears through an entire mini-industry because they just can’t be bothered to figure out what they’re talking about before going on a legislative rampage.
According to Politico:
Feinstein said she is working on legislation with the Commerce Committee and urged senators to move swiftly to create “strong, binding enforceable privacy policies that govern drone operations … before the technology is upon us.”
Don’t let the fact slow you down…
Maybe the most ironic aspect of all this is that Feinstein chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee. Shouldn’t she know what a drone is and is not, just by virtue of holding that position?