The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration recently issued rules that ease access to becoming a commercial drone pilot. The rules state that pilots must operate an aircraft that weighs less than 55 pounds, while remaining below 400 feet and within the operator’s visual line of sight. Flying over crowds of people is also prohibited.
While these rules are in place to prevent types of privatized surveillance, there is still reasonable concern from people who find an issue with drones’ impact on privacy. Although flying drones commercially has been allowed since 2014, an exemption from the FAA was required. The new increased access will encourage a new variety of pilots, who now will be able to obtain their drone permissions like a driver’s license, as opposed to before when drone pilots were required to be licensed airplane pilots.
This increased access has prompted concern regarding drone surveillance, particularly due to the reasons below.
Some Governments Are Concerned, Too
Drone skeptics likely felt validated upon hearing the news out of Sweden: the country’s highest court put an outright ban on drone filming, unless you’re law enforcement or have a permit. Sweden has no issues with car or bike-mounted cameras, as their intent is to prevent crime or accidents, though the country’s government treated types of cameras with surveillance potential seriously.
Critics in Sweden, like industry group UAS, claim the ban will adversely impact thousands of people in the industry, but the ruling confirms that some governments are concerned with how citizens and companies can use drone surveillance to their advantage.
Drones Co-Exist in the Information Age
Social media users have noticed a prominent trend over the past several years in regard to targeted ads on platforms like Facebook, where ad content is tailored based on your interests and browsing activity. Businesses attract your attention and appear like a great fit. Could using drone surveillance be their next big effort in obtaining marketing-relevant information?
With lessened regulations in the US, larger businesses are more likely to embrace drone technology because they won’t have to pay an airplane pilot or apply for an expensive permit. Not every business will take advantage — the public is aware that several businesses have ethical questions, and using drones to track consumer behavior for their marketing efforts isn’t out of the question. It’s a legitimate concern in the age of drone surveillance.
Drone Retaliation Has Already Began
We’re likely to see quite a few controversial court cases as more people begin piloting drones.
Even something as simple as a neighbor throwing a rock at a drone could cause a lawsuit to develop. Optical surfaces and other key design components can be compromised by scratches, and drones aren’t exactly cheap. However, if the air above your lawn is considered your property, don’t you have the right to protect your privacy?
Eyebrows raised when a Kentucky man shot down a drone on his property, but charges of criminal mischief and wanton endangerment were later dropped. The judge stated the man had a right to shoot the drone because it was on his property. The drone’s pilot argued that the drone was well over 200 feet in the air, disputing the proximity to his property and reminding of the Supreme Court case United States v. Causby in which the court decided a farmer could assert property rights up to 83 feet in the air. Yet whether the same decision applies to the area between 83 and 500 feet is a legal gray area.
Today’s marketing-related sleuthing combined with a lawsuit-happy society makes the continuing rise of drone technology a point of concern. With the Supreme Court’s haziness on property rights regarding elevation, there’s also concern about flying drones over your own backyard and whether or not that would break any laws.
Kayla Matthews is a writer who blogs about technology and information security for CloudTweaks, Memeburn and VM Blog. Read more posts from Kayla at ProductivityBytes.com.