Mayor Mike McGinn's decision to return the city's drones to the vendor puts Seattle in the center of discussions about the role of such technologies in government.
According to several news reports, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn made the decision last week to have the Police Department stop its experimental drone program before the machines took to the air.
Using federal grant money, the city previously obtained two Draganflyer X6 vehicles, which McGinn has indicated will be returned to the vendor. While the police department had not yet used the drones, according to CBS Seattle, it had secured approval for their use from the Federal Aviation Administration.
As in many communities across the country, residents in Seattle expressed concerns over privacy and how the drones would be used. The issue came to a head at a Seattle City Council Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee meeting Feb. 6, at which a drone ordinance was being considered.
Lawmakers in several states and localities also are considering restricting drone use over their airspace given fears that they could be used to spy on Americans.
The decision in Seattle was praised by the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. "Drones would have given the police unprecedented abilities to engage in surveillance and intrude on the privacy of people in Seattle ... and there was never a strong case made that Seattle needed them for public safety."
Because McGinn is the first city mayor to put a stop to drone use, Seattle is now at the center of discussions about the role of drones -- and other high-tech tools -- in government, Crosscut.com reported.
"Cities will play a major role in shaping how drones and other high-tech tools are used, or not used in our society," wrote Brett Horvath for Crosscut.com. "Municipalities, more than the federal government or legislative bodies, govern the physical reality we live in. While federal authorities may try to promote drone use, control rests with the cities. The drone industry has already targeted city police departments (and farms) as the most promising sector for growth."
Draganflyer X6 image courtesy of Draganfly Innovations.