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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Droning about Your Rights...

The US is embarking on a new love affair: domestic drones.

For example, the ShadowHawk, recently purchased with a US Homeland grant by a sheriff in Texas:

What's troubling about his is that the sheriff is has has yet to decide whether or not arm the drone (see this).

Drones are already a big business, some $6 billion USD annually.  And that's expected to double in the not too distant future.

And, of course, there's no reason private businesses cannot own drones so long as they comply will all appropriate laws.

Most troubling is the still below from the above video, presumable shot via the ShadowHawk drone video system:

Notice the cross hairs on what looks like a couple of guys out in the woods.

Now in terms of commercial drones purchased by private industry property owners have some semblance of "air rights" according to Wikipedia:

[ The ] Supreme Court,  ... declared that a landowner owns only so much of the airspace above their property as they may reasonably use in connection with their enjoyment of the underlying land.

This decision, of course, followed the invention of the airplane.  Prior to that it was assumed that you owned all the "air space" above your property.  With the invention of the airplane the Supreme Court decided that "air space" was a "public highway" and bound property owners to the "reasonable enjoyment" clause above.

Commercial airplanes are required, in general, to keep a 500 ft clearance (in the US at least) between themselves and all ground structures.

So I would say that prior to today you might have an expectation that you should not see airplanes closer than that to your home or property.

But drones are small and lightweight.

I wonder what the Supreme Court will decide about "drone access" to your existing "air space?"

Think all this is far fetched?  Then you obviously haven't heard about the "Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems" - a trade group (see this) that is trying to get "out front" of these issues with a drone pilots "code of conduct."

What can we expect from all this?
  • I imagine that Arizona will buy drones to enforce their border (armed or not who can say).
  • Drones will be able to follow your car (hovering above your "air space" limits and then tracking you as you drive around no warrant needed).
  • No doubt I will be able to hunt with armed drones (only animals of course).
  • Can't quite peak into your neighbors bedroom window?  Don't worry drones are equipped with sophisticated cameras.  I'm quite sure there are options for optical "surveillance."
  • No doubt these will work, much to dismay of royals, for paparazzi.  Solar powered drones will be able to spend the day hovering over the "grounds" snapping pictures.

All-in-all not a picture that sounds wonderful.

No doubt the Supreme Court will get involved but my guess is that privacy and peace and quiet will not be the victor.

The video below was taken from a MarcusUAV Zephyr - a $10,000 USD drone complete with camera, laptop and autopilot.

How long before its $500 and controlled by your iPhone?

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