Protection from Drone Surveillance

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We got used to technology rapidly evolving, so the fast ascension of drone industry did not come as a surprize to us. Nowadays, drones started to be used as inspectors for land development, in aircraft maintenance, crop management and in many other fields. Undoubtedly, the development of sensors and surveillance devices won’t be a strange path for drone innovation.

However, privacy advocates are spooked by this development being implemented on a market where drones are being commercialized. Surely we’ve heard about the use of drones for persistent surveillance, and perhaps this even alarmed some of us. Unfortunately, it is not clear which government agencies were tasked to handle this type of concerns.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has dropped its authority to draft a law that will oversee privacy concerns. The Federal Trade Commission, an entity mandated to impose strict consumer privacy, is currently working on this issue. To fill the gaps, several laws were already implemented, but there still are loopholes. These will need a foundation law, to bind state laws together, forging a stronger law to implement.

For starters, landowners are entitled to 500 feet airspace, according to the aviation authority. Above the 500 feet is a free-to-fly zone, meaning no one owns it. This is the reason why FAA is dropping its authority on the issue. In order for the agency to regulate this type of circumstances, it will need to widen the scope of its jurisdiction down to the 500 feet designated airspace, which is a conflicting notion to what the aviation’s law states.

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Last month, a man in Texas shot a drone hovering on his property. The drone’s owner filed a lawsuit for the damages caused by the man. The man avoided the charges by insisting that the drone was violating his right to privacy. This is the loophole the government is working on, to find a solution and fix the issue. They are hoping for an equal consideration for all of us, so they can safeguard the rights of everyone.

Here’s another alarming scenario. What if a drone is spying 150 feet above you? You’ll never know who’s controlling the drone, and if you file a lawsuit, how are you going to prove the violation to your privacy? Both parties may claim that they are not doing anything wrong, to cover up their mess.

The agency that will look into this issue should make a law that will not affect the role of other drones, meaning those that are making a huge contribution to the society. Should this law happen, we will continue to benefit from the development of drones.

“If, for example, the use-case concern is persistent surveillance, let’s deal with that as a society with a set of rules and laws, but not that are specific to drones” – Brendan Schulman, Vice President of Policy and Legal Affairs at DJI, said in an interview.

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