Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The drone invasion is real, and it's heading your way

A Federal Aviation Administration official said in early October he expects a million personal drones to be given as gifts during this year's December holidays. Yet little federal regulation exists, state regulation is aimed chiefly at law enforcement, and the FAA's drone-use recommendations have too often gone ignored by owners of personal drones. Camera-equipped drones are available online from $20 to over $1,000, with many ranging from $80 to $300. In mid-October, the FAA revealed deep concern by announcing that by Christmas it would require recreational drones be registered with the Department of Transportation. Also it disclosed it might use military tools to spot operators and force down their drones. Dangers fall in two areas: safety and privacy protection. Recent incidents in New York and elsewhere evidence safety infractions. A drone with a camera flew close to a police helicopter over Brooklyn; another did the same near the George Washington Bridge. Similar incidents occurred over Times Square and Citi Field. Fans at the 2015 U.S. Open tennis tournament saw a personal drone crash into the stands. Existing law was applied: The drone operators were charged with reckless endangerment, one additionally charged with obstructing government administration. Commercial pilots reported a drone coming within 100 feet of a passenger jet in July near John F. Kennedy International Airport at 1,700 feet of altitude. The FAA says pilots nationally now report about 100 drone sightings per month. A drone crashed on the White House lawn in January. Another crashed into a chimney of the New York state Capitol in Albany, N.Y. Yet another was spotted near a New York prison. The U.S. Forest Service on the West Coast reported 13 wildfires where personal drones interfered, in one case forcing pilots to break off aerial firefighting for fear of a collision. Privacy invasion dangers have been illuminated in recently passed state laws. In 2015, Arkansas, targeting voyeurism, banned use of an unmanned aerial vehicle to videotape, film, photograph, record or view people who have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Mississippi added a provision to its peeping-tom statute in mid-2015 that makes it a felony to peep using a periscope, telescope, binoculars, camera, motion-picture camera or drone. A 2014 North Carolina law bans private surveillance or photos, and a 2014 Indiana law bans drone use on private property without consent. Many states already guard citizens from privacy invasions by government by stopping police agencies from using drones for surveillance without a search warrant...more

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