FAA points out need to protect privacy from drones

by Andrew McGinn, Dayton Daily News  |  published on November 29, 2012

Unless privacy laws are strengthened, the American Civil Liberties Union envisions a day when police departments large and small use unmanned aerial vehicles to monitor troubled neighborhoods.

With its decision this month to delay the creation of six national test sites for UAVs, the Federal Aviation Administration acknowledged that the ACLU’s fears might not be that far fetched, although an industry spokeswoman largely dismissed the concerns as imagined.

In a letter obtained last week by the Springfield News-Sun to members of Congress, the FAA pointed out the need to first address the privacy issues, along with safety concerns, that come with increasing the number of drones in U.S. airspace.

The Springfield-Dayton region is seeking to become a nationally recognized hub of unmanned aerial vehicle testing, development and manufacturing. Winning one of the six test-site designations is seen as key.

The purpose of the test sites — which had been scheduled to be selected in December — is to determine how unmanned aircraft can be safely integrated into traditional manned airspace by 2015 in order to perform an endless array of duties, from border security and relaying telecommunications signals to traffic monitoring and crop dusting.

If picked as one of the test sites, UAVs in this area would likely take off from the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport and the Wilmington Air Park, then fly to military airspace in southern Ohio once used by F-16s from the Springfield Air National Guard Base.

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