Drones – or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) – may soon be filling our skies, engaged in myriad video surveillance tasks.
The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) in the United States is looking at new rules to govern commercial use of UAVs. Right now, it is illegal to use UAVs for commercial use, but recreational hobbyist use is ok.
On 9 February, the European Commission’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Panel will meet in Brussels to agree on flight rules and technologies for UAVs. Issues they will consider include collision avoidance systems and other safety devices.
New rules are likely to come into effect between 2013 and 2015. Rules will probably limit UAVs to line of sight operation.
There are various security and safety uses for UAVs:
- Surveillance, covert and overt
- Emergency services
- Crisis management: floods, fires, terrorist attack
- Border control
Emerging opposition to UAVs is focused on privacy and fears of a surveillance state.
The website Drone Wars UK has issued a “Drone Wars Briefing” document.
Privacy advocate, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has filed a lawsuit against the US government to find out how UAVs are being used.
The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems Association (UAVSA) is a trade group that represents the drone industry to the UK government.
UAVSA is planning a PR campaign to change public perception of “drones” and they consider public opposition to be a major obstacle to commercial development of UAVs.
The Civil Aviation Authority has advised drone manufacturers to paint their drones bright colours to combat fears of Big Brother in the sky.
Meanwhile, government and police use of drones appears to be well developed.
ASTRAEA is a consortium of UAV companies. The aim of the ASTRAEA programme is to enable the routine use of UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) in all classes of airspace without the need for restrictive or specialised conditions of operation. They have received £30m in public funds over 8 years.
At least five police forces – the Met, Merseyside, Essex, Staffordshire and British Transport police – are known to have used UAVs.
Guardian newspaper: Surveillance drone industry plans PR effort to counter negative image
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems Association: www.uavs.org
New Scientist: Civilian drones to fill the skies after law shake-up
Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (UVS), a global trade association based in the Netherlands
Eurocontrol, pan-European air traffic control organisation.
Electronic Frontier Foundation