Drone Code of Conduct Says and Accomplishes Nothing


Grey Eagle Drone

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.

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  1. 1. A drone may not spy on a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to be spied on.
    2. A drone must obey the orders given to it by remote pilots, especially where such orders would conflict with the First Law, which is just a loose guideline really.
    3. A drone must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with feeding misinformation to Iran.

    1. 4. A drone must kill Will Smith when killing Will Smith does not endanger the safety of another human being.

      1. Improper use of “another”.

      2. You did not fucking attribute the Three Laws to that abortion of a movie instead of directly to Asimov. Jesus. Armstrong was right to issue a nasawah against you.

        1. Oh, fuck Asimov.

          1. Dude, I’m going to go completely psychohistory on your ass.

        2. Take that shit up with FoE, you provincial putz.

          1. I suggest that FoE was quoting Asimov, not this person you mentioned.

            1. Who are these Asimov and Smith characters you’re talking about? My comment was all original, directly from my brain.

              1. Also acceptable, as it eschews that Awful Black Man.

                  1. Well, only in the reflected light of wylie, whom you ripped off.

  2. “We will not harm a human being unless our Dear Leader has Really Really thought about it Hard. It’s really quite painful for Him to make these calls you know. But He does it for us. You could maybe send Him a card or, better, five bucks. Anyhoo, no bomby bomby human targets unless they’re probably evil, check.”

  3. an organization that represents the drone industry

    *sigh, resigned head-swivel*

  4. OT, but this is why I hate Fox News.

    He started to say something about the Tea Party and went in another direction, but Fox tries to twist it around.


    1. Best internet comment I have read in a while:

      shawn_von_socialist ? 11 minutes ago ? parent ?
      the teaparty has nothing to do with the orignal teaparty for one thing the original teaparty hated conservativism why do conservatives hide themselves in false patriotism the orginal teaparty was agaisnt european conservativism traditionalism and i am white and every- white teapartier nut job i have ever talked to is a bigot never met one who was not and i am a proud redneck socialist like the founders who invented progressivism liberalism
      a republican form of government is the people owning the means of production…yes the people the government
      the constitution is a anti conservative document-

      somethings are facts somethings are historical revisionism

      ron paul is not a constitutionalist he is a bigot
      libertarianism is european creaed in europe by guess who communists
      austrian economics is european

      1. Fuck me that’s painful!

      2. shawn_von_socialist ? 11 minutes ago ? parent ?

        This is a tragedy.

        And am I the only one that noticed the same lack of capitalization and writing style employed by dunphy. [puts on tinfoil hat]

    2. It sounded to me like he was saying he understands the Tea Party because he used to be a racist, too.

      Would you really expect somebody who “can’t get enough” MSNBC to not think the Tea Party is racist?

      1. He said he watched a lot of Fox as well. It sounded to me like he started one train of thought and then went in another direction. Note the chance in tone and inflection when going from the TP thing to the racist grandmother thing. They don’t have anything to do with each other, and I’ve never heard a word out of James Earl Jones that would indicate he’s some left-wing loon that thinks “evul teabaggerz!” are out to get all the black people.

        Oh, and I wish they would have asked him about Lizzie Warren.

        1. He didn’t say “a lot,” he said he even “ventured” into Fox, like you venture into the jungle or enemy territory. Though I guess that means he watches more Fox than me. (Not hard to beat zero.)

          I think maybe you’re hearing what you want to hear. One statement leads directly to the other. It would be like somebody saying, “I think I have figured out this sloopy guy, I, I do understand libertarianism because I was taught to be one by my Grandmother.” It’s not like they were talking about racism before and he pivoted back, he was asked about politics.

  5. If it’s serious about privacy, then the drone industry needs to take a real stand.

    Except, taking a stand on the privacy issue would preclude a lot of lucrative domestic spying contracts….so, ummm, yeah, fuck yo privacy, niggaz!

    Drone Rick-James.

  6. The implied clause on all of those pledges is “…except in such cases where we are paid not to.”

  7. 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.

    The drone industry is completely dependent on fed .gov contracts for it’s continued existence. So they’ll get right on telling their biggest customer the acceptable uses of the product. Said customer will then tell the drone industry to fuck right along and do you really want this pile of money, because somebody else sure does.

    Or, they could just not include features and get demolished by a start-up that includes whatever the feds ask for.

    Oh, yeah, the drone industry has a real effective say over how this goes down.

    1. I can see some uses for private drones. Mainly in transportation. Airlines would be cautious at first to have unmanned airplanes, but I can see FedEx buying a lot of drones.

  8. What will be the most effective (legally obtainable) way to shoot down a drone? The most fun way?

    1. both answers: Potato Cannon

    2. Legally obtainable way? Hand cranked belt-fed gatling. Most fun? Trebuchet loaded with giant molotovs.

      Unless you’re talented enough to whip up a SAM in the garage from PVC pipe, household chemicals, and radio shack parts.

    3. You better have an EMP if you plan on bringing down a .gov drone.

      1. If I had an EMP I’d be on my way to DC. Dera FBI, I would never try to obtain/fabricate an EMP to take to DC.

        1. The problem with D.C. isn’t the computers. You want a neutron bomb.

    4. I’m thinking frequency jammer that causes catastrophic transceiver failure.

    5. Autonomous drone-hunter drone, built using common RC parts, with automatic target acquisition, identification, and interception implemented using only what you will find inside any iPhone.

  9. this is sort of responding to mine, Hugh’s, and T’s posts about the money….

    On the bright side, there won’t BE any money for Drones soon enough, as it’ll be kinda hard to pay for drones when there isn’t even a meaningful dollar anymore. Or a federal gov’t to buy them.

    US Govt: Ensuring its own demise with its own failed policies and irresponsible spending.

    1. The last they’ll pay for before they have to turn the lights out because of insolvency is jackboots. Bet on it.

    2. If people still have money the government isn’t broke.

    3. There is plenty of business use for drones. Think Google Earth for one. Local governments have been using aerial photography for property tax assessment for a long time.

  10. I predict this domestic unmanned drone bullshit will be so bad that it will eventually be blamed on libertarians somehow.

    1. “We had to start domestic spying to keep track of those crafty and powerful libertarians!”

      1. There’s one good path.

        1. I figured they’d just go with the libertarians = domestic terrorists. It’s easy, and they’ve already laid the groundwork.

          1. Hoarders…Wreckers….you know….. the standard demonization script.

            1. Fucking kulaks, everywhere…

          2. Just look at the comments above disussing ways to destroy .GOV drones! Clearly not only do we need these drones to protect ourselves from such dangerous terrorists, we have to look at whether posting on a site such as Reason constitutes providing material support to terrorist organizations. You know, because freedom isn’t free and all that.

    2. “Obviously the libertarians who secretly control the economy are blowing up black people to prevent the government from passing more stimulus. I’m Ezra Klein.”

    3. Factories are used to produce the drones patrolling our skies and bombing our gay weddings. Who do we know in this country who owns factories? That’s right, the Koch brothers.

  11. Will Skynet follow the code of conduct when it becomes self aware?

    1. It took this long before a Skynet reference? You people are slipping.

  12. I saw a news report the other day about some graduate students somewhere who figured out how to hijack drones, by hacking the GPS signal I think.

    There’s supposed to be some DHS program to prevent that sort of thing but not surprisingly it isn’t working, needs more funds, etc.

    It will probably end up being an excuse to ban the ownership of radios and electronic components. Not that it would work; whether or not their hare-brained bans would work is never really the issue, is it?

  13. My brother is a navy pilot, and says the pilots he knows are not generally happy about drones. Aside from potentially taking away a pilot’s livelihood, they are also more apt to take away his life, there being no pilot (as I understand it, drone ‘pilots’ need not be actual pilots, either), concerned with his own personal safety, in the drone, physically. Not being aircraft, they fly outside the normal set of protocols, and are therefore often unaware of, and/or do not understand, what is going on in the air around them. Or so I am told.

    1. All legitimate concerns, I’m sure. But they’re the future of air combat, no doubt about it.

  14. “[The drone industry] has an actual say in what direction drone activity takes, after all.”

    No. It doesn’t. Think about it for, say, three more seconds.

  15. The “Drone Industry Code of Conduct” is about having an empty platitude in place that won’t interfere with the Drone Industries ability to sell as many drones as possible to the government, not about holding the industry to any measurable standard of conduct.
    Wait till some tin-pot dictator like Hugo Chavez gets his clutches on this technology. Or, how about one of the drug cartels?
    The drug cartels are already building submarines to transport large quantities of drugs in single shipments, what is to prevent them from using surveillance drones to avoid Coast Guard and DEA interdiction? It’s a short step from passive surveillance to remote controlled craft capable of bringing down a loitering border surveillance craft.
    Once you have made this step it is an even smaller step to full assault capable craft. At that point the skies of America become just another battleground.

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