Civilian drones stir debate

2013-03-18 20:39
eebee drone

eebee drone

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - Drones: A flying technological marvel that could save lives or a sinister robot spy which edges the United States ever closer towards becoming a surveillance society?

The imminent proliferation of unmanned aircraft in American skies has stirred a debate which veers between excitement at the possibilities to deep concern they may be deployed to snoop on law-abiding citizens.

Congress has ordered the Federal Aviation Administration to open up airspace to unmanned aircraft by October 2015, a decision expected to see thousands of drones criss-crossing the sky within a few years.

Supporters of the move point to a vast range of applications which drones could be used for - tracking the progress of wildfires, helping to find lost skiers, identifying criminals or mapping inhospitable terrain.

"The possibilities ... are endless," said Ryan Calo, an expert in law and emerging technology at Stanford University's Centre for Internet and Society.

"What are drones but flying smartphones, one app away from indispensable? We could see drones accompanying early morning joggers, taking sport, wildlife and other photography to a new level."

While the public perception of drones is associated with their use in war, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) believes they can "save money, time and lives" in civilian life.

The AUVSI also believes increased drone use will create 100 000 jobs by 2025, injecting billions of dollars into the economy.

Baptiste Tripard, North American sales director of SenseFly, the Swiss manufacturer of a drone that can draw 3D maps or take high resolution photos, believes the United States could become the biggest market for drones.

Civil liberties

"The United States has the potential to become the largest market in the world, particularly in agriculture, where professionals are already used to working with high-tech instruments," Baptiste told AFP.

Civil liberties groups have a more guarded view of the likely darkening of American skies by unmanned aircraft.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) warns drones can intercept messages on wireless networks, monitor up to 65 people and carry eagle-eyed technology that can identify the brand on a carton of milk from 18 000 meters.

When a drone was used to assess damage from an earthquake in Italy in September, it also stumbled across a marijuana plantation and duly identified those individuals responsible.

Similarly, while US Customs deploys drones to patrol the border, their unmanned aircraft are sometimes used to help local police.

"Rules must be put in place to ensure that we can enjoy the benefits of this new technology without bringing us closer to a surveillance society in which our every move is monitored, tracked, recorded and scrutinized by the government," the American Civil Liberties Union has warned.

The potential implications of widespread drone use mirrors the problems faced by internet giant Google, which was fined $7m on Tuesday after it emerged that vehicles snapping photos for its Street View images were also gathering information from private Wi-Fi hotspots.

The FAA meanwhile estimates that more than 7 000 small unmanned aircraft will dot American skies over the next five years.

When US airspace opens up in October 2015, drones will be used in six test locations. The tests are designed to help the FAA draw up rules governing the use of unmanned aircraft.

Currently drones are allowed to fly on public service missions - used by fire brigades or customs for example - or for recreation, provided the smallest are visible to the naked eye.

Thirty US states are working on legislation to limit the use of drones, a move welcomed by the ACLU.

The rights group has argued that states should demand law enforcement seek warrants for drone use and prohibit the publication of images from drones or equipping them with weapons such as tasers, rubber bullets and tear gas.

- SAPA
Read more on:    faa  |  us  |  aviation
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
27 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

How to make this a sensual, sexy summer!

Summer is the perfect time for rekindling cooling passions and for shedding your inhibitions as well as your clothes…

 
 

I love summer.24

This is what South Africans Googled in 2014!
This hilarious song is your new holiday anthem
The world's least visited destination is breathtaking!
LOL treadmill fail!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2DAYS ONLY – 30% off Appliances

Coffee makers, blenders, fans, juicers and more. T&Cs apply. Shop now!

2 DAYS ONLY – 40% off books

Get 40% off when you buy 2 books. For two days only! T&Cs apply. Buy now!

Up to 50% off on outdoor gear

Save on chairs, blankets, cooler bags, umbrellas and more. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may be emotionally defensive or reserved today. You need to step up today as there may be extra responsibilities to deal with....read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.