‘Concerns over domestic drones: spying, civil liberties’ abuse & accidents’

Reuters / Erik Hildebrandt
With the new US rules for drone flights it’s possible that UAVs will be used by criminals, and also there is a very real threat of abuse of civil liberties by police and intelligence agencies, says Ed Kinane, activist with the Upstate Drone Action.

The US Federal Aviation Administrationissued draft regulationsfor the use of private drones on Sunday.

RT:Let's look at the bright side first. What advantages could the widespread use of domestic drones bring to businesses and customers?

Ed Kinane: There are various practical uses for drones. For example, farmers might use them to survey large acreages to check on perhaps diseases in their crops. Real estate agents might use them for photographing properties so they might better sell them. News gathering organizations could use drones to get special camera angles that couldn’t get otherwise. Some corporations see themselves delivering products to customers using drones.

RT:How much of a potential danger do these drones pose to commercial aviation?

EK: The risk of accidents I think is very high. The technology is rapidly developing but it still needs to develop much more before it’s really safe. And then there is also the risk that amateurs using drones may cross the path of commercial flights leading to collisions. Also, the drones may crash. There isn’t necessarily a lot of quality control with the drones. So they might get out of control and crash, damaging property or maybe even hurting people. There is a risk of the drones being hacked by parties who maybe have bad intentions.

RT:Do you think there will be people who will try to use domestic drones for illegal activities?

EK: I’m sure they will. You can picture criminals using them; you can picture insurgents using them, you can picture terrorists using them. But my particular concern would be that intelligence agencies and police abuse them. I think that is a very real threat of abusing our civil liberties, our First Amendment rights here in this country.

RT:A huge amount of surveillance data could be gathered by these drones. Should people be concerned by this?

EK: I think we should be very concerned about the abuse of the drones for surveillance. Already we have US intelligence agencies like the FBI, NSA gathering enormous amounts of surveillance data with very little control over them. And we’ve seen that our intelligence agencies don’t necessarily respect out laws regarding these matters. Trying to enforce regulations is very difficult especially when you go up against the NSA, the National Security Administration, or the FBI, or Homeland Security. There is very little in the way of enforcement.

The FAA, the Federal Aviation Administration, is already stretched very thin. And it’s not their function to be enforcing the rules and regulations, and they don’t have the means to do it. It is a very risky situation we’re going into…We would have many drones in the air probably... how do we know which ones are doing what? It would give very good cover to spy drones because we’re just used to seeing drones in the air. So we don’t think of it when we see drones that really are performing functions that are very inappropriate for them.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.