Drones on the waterways: What are your experiences?

For mariners, a drone sounds like something they are very familiar with: that continuous, low humming sound of the vessel’s engine.

But what about those unmanned aircraft, increasingly visible as they hum in the skies above?

Drones are reportedly becoming more commonplace on waterways in a variety of applications including monitoring water quality and levels, vessel traffic, fish populations, and weather.

These aircraft have gotten pretty sophisticated — some are outfitted with sensors that can inspect ships and cargo containers for harmful substances, while others are trained to pick up trash in the water. They can be launched from boats as well as from shore, and some can be powered by the wind or the sun.

I am putting together a story about the use of drones on the inland and coastal waterways. The article will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of having such unmanned vehicles either hovering above or working in the water.

Have you seen any drones while working on your vessels? What concerns you the most about having them where you live or work? Are they an annoyance, or just another thing to navigate around? Should they be regulated?

Please post your comments here. They could prove extremely helpful for the story. Thanks.

About the author

Pamela Glass

Pamela Glass is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for WorkBoat. She reports on the decisions and deliberations of congressional committees and federal agencies that affect the maritime industry, including the Coast Guard, U.S. Maritime Administration and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Prior to coming to WorkBoat, she covered coastal, oceans and maritime industry news for 15 years for newspapers in coastal areas of Massachusetts and Michigan for Ottaway News Service, a division of the Dow Jones Company. She began her newspaper career at the New Bedford (Mass.) Standard-Times. A native of Massachusetts, she is a 1978 graduate of Wesleyan University (Conn.). She currently resides in Potomac, Md.

1 Comment

  1. James Person on

    They are not entirely new. In 1956 we had a drone on the USS NEW JERSEY (BB 62). It was just a large radio-controlled model airplane flown by a naval aviator with a control box from the deck of the ship. He would fly it by the ship and we would shoot our anti-aircraft guns, 40 mm quad mounts and 5-inch dual mounts, at it (with a slight off set to keep from destroying the thing. When it ran out of gas or the controller pushed the right button on his control box. it would pop a parachute and drop in the ocean. We would pick it up, wash it off with fresh water, refuel it, and make it ready to do again.

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