In five years, the sky could be filled with flying robots, so there needs to be some ground rules.
On Dec. 3, Sen. Alex Padilla (D-California) introduced a Senate bill in attempt to establish regulations for drones in U.S. airspace. Domestic drones, also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), are now deployed by many government agencies, such as NASA and the Department of Homeland Security. The FAA estimated that there could be more than 10,000 commercial drones in U.S. airspace within five years.
“I am concerned because domestic drones have the potential to be used for surreptitious surveillance activities that infringe upon fundamental constitutional rights." Padilla said in a press release. "We must ensure that there are clear guidelines in place that protect the rights of all Californians. As this technology advances and becomes more widely used, it is imperative that we have clear standards in place for their safe and reasonable use and operation in order to protect the public."
Padilla, who said he believes there are legitimate reasons for concern about privacy, civil liberties and public safety, encouraged proactive behavior on behalf of the government, stating that government is often reactionary when it comes to technology. The time has come, he said, for legislators to consider issues of privacy and safety before things become too difficult to manage.
Though drones are now rarely seen by the public and often pushed to places like the Mexican border or the desert for testing, the increased use of drones for commercial purposes presents a new issue for the public to consider. Not unlike a sci-fi movie, drones could soon be commonly used for advertising, broadcasting, inspections, traffic monitoring, real-estate photography and crop dusting. And just recently, a father built a do-it-yourself quadcopter drone to supervise his son's 400-meter jaunt to catch the school bus.
Photo of Aeryon Scout Micro-UAV by Aeryon