Last Thursday, the US Army demonstrated a sensor system for the Grey Eagle drone that would allow drone controllers to detect and avoid other aircraft. According to Ars Technica, this is all part of the plan to have Army drones in US airspace by 2014.
As the fear of intentional drone surveillance and flights in domestic air space inch closer and closer toward reality (the Air Force can already spy you "accidentally," and the Mexican border has been guarded by drones for months), the Associate for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, an organization that represents the drone industry, created a code of conduct for drone flights on July 5. This is all part of an effort to guide the FAA’s drone licensing regulations, which are currently in development.
While the code of conduct is well-meaning, its vacant platitudes offer little in the way of actionable suggestions for policy. Individual pledges include:
“We will respect the rights of other users of the airspace.”
“We will respect the privacy of individuals.”
“We will respect the concerns of the public as they relate to unmanned aircraft operations.”
The code concludes with the hope that every component of the drone industry will embrace this code.
It is at least good to know that the drone industry has heard the public concern about drone flights in domestic airspace, but a pledge offers no real privacy protection.
It is a stretch to think that the same federal government that gave us the PATRIOT Act, the TSA, and the indiscriminate drone attacks on civilians in the Middle East would even think twice about violating domestic privacy rights. So at the very least, the AUVSI could still come up with some suggestions a little ballsier than the ones proposed.
Why not address issues like surveillance by proposing protective legislation? If it's serious about privacy, then the drone industry needs to take a real stand. It has an actual say in what direction drone activity takes, after all.
Find ReasonTV's coverage of drones here.