Drone Manufacturers Whine That They Are Misunderstood

The AP published a story today about how drone manufacturers are worried about the growing “privacy backlash” in the United States concerning the prospect of swarms of government and private UAVs taking to the air once the U.S. Federal  Aviation Administration works out how to let them fly safely in U.S.  airspace. The agency  intends to have the rules worked out by 2015.

The manufacturers, says the AP, are worried that the FAA will dawdle in its rule making and thus allow politicians, privacy advocates, and others who worry that drones will be abused the time to place what they consider to be unnecessary barriers to their use.They are worried that their $6 billion in expected sales to law enforcement and public safety agencies might be negatively impacted, especially with military contracts shrinking.

Apparently, in the manufacturers’ mind, those who “fear … the technology will be misused” just need to be re-educated to their life-saving benefits. The AP story quotes a UAV support services supply company CEO as saying, “Our lack of success in educating the public about unmanned aircraft is coming back to bite us,” while a drone manufacturer is quotes as saying, “Any legislation that restricts the use of this kind of capability to serve the public is putting the public at risk.” The story also quotes the executive director of the Airborne Law Enforcement Association as saying that UAVs “clearly have so much potential for saving lives, and it’s a darn shame we’re having to go through this right now. It’s frustrating.”

Yep, we need drones everywhere for the children’s sake.

If it wasn’t for those loud, pesky politicians like Rep. Ed Markey, D‐Mass., co‐chairman of the House Bipartisan Congressional Privacy Caucus, who introduced updated legislation last week to among other things (pdf), require the FAA to “not issue drone licenses unless the application includes a data collection statement that explains who will operate the drone, where the drone will be flown, what kind of data will be collected, how that data will be used, whether the information will be sold to third parties, and the period for which the information will be retained” as well as require “law enforcement agencies and their contractors and subcontractors [to] include an additional data minimization statement that explains how they will minimize the collection and retention of data unrelated to the investigation of a crime,” those drones could be out saving lives right now.

Well, maybe once New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg term-ends, the drone manufacturers can hire him as their spokesperson to educate Americans on how, as one drone manufacturer told the AP, “the benefits of these solutions (drones) …  far outweigh the concerns.” Bloomberg said last week that drones are coming no matter what and, as a consequence, that Americans are just going to have to learn to live with “more visibility and less privacy.” Just think of them as merely roaming security cameras in the sky, he suggested.

There, don’t you feel safer already?

Photo: Erik Simonsen/Getty Images

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