Is Walton at risk from unmanned military aircraft?

Paul Vizard The Walton Sun

As I walk to the mailbox to grab the mail, two unmanned drones are circling over Blue Mountain Beach. Drones,  unmanned surveillance aircraft about the size of a small plane, as many as four at one time, have been circling the airspace of 30A and South Walton since January.

This use of drones is called the Gulf Range Drone Control System, and they take off and land via remote controls from Eglin Air Force Base. What data they are gathering or patrol purpose is unknown, but their constant use raises many questions of safety to the community.

Unmanned drones have the highest accident rate of ANY category of aircraft in the Air Force. Bloomberg News stated the following “Predator and Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles have had a combined 9.31 accidents (129 total) for every 100,000 hours of flying.”

In a stunning recent report, Texas A&M University students recently hacked their control systems. According to PC Magazine, they just used their $1,000-worth of radio gadgetry to fool the drone into recognizing them as its true pilots. Even more scary is the possibility that these drones are armed.

We could get collisions in the air, or engine failures, and there could be loss of life. The Pentagon and drone manufacturers have been lobbying Congress to allow government and commercial use of drones within the U.S.A. by 2015. The agency projects that 30,000 drones could be in the nation’s skies by 2020. And that’s just military use, Police departments and even FedEx are seeking approval for their use.