Flying a drone can be an act of civil disobedience

Article/Op-Ed in The Washington Post
April 15, 2015

The new technology, the police robot, was there to minimize risk to the operator, while the gyrocopter, the anachronistic flying contraption, had just been used to deliberately put its operator at risk in order to make a political statement. The pilot apparently wished to trade his freedom temporarily, in a non-violent way, in order that his voice might be heard; landing on the Capitol grounds was how he chose to make that trade. The landing will be the news story of the day, but the story shouldn’t be one about the safety or inviolability of airspace near the Capitol. Yes, the Capitol building is vulnerable. So is the White House, as was seen after a small drone accidentally crashed on the White House grounds in January. Such vulnerability ought to be a hallmark of America. The pilot may be punished (though one hopes he will be charged as the peaceful protester he appears to be and not as an ostensible terrorist.) But it is essential to democracy that such acts of civil disobedience be possible.