I thought about beginning this week's entry pointing out the semantic difference between "drone" and "unmanned aerial vehicle." Half-way through I hit the probably the same road block many others do when trying to organize this seemingly binary topic.
You see, I was blessed with parents who graciously got me out of their hair by occasionally presenting a small-sized truck or race car modeled toy able to be controlled by a wireless controller. Like many children, I grew up with unmanned ground vehicles. While it did occur to me that I'd have a ton of fun if I could just attach a camera to the hood and let loose on my neighborhood, I did lack the resources to complete this technological advancement.
Back to my point: even with a camera (aerial or ground) these vehicles shouldn't be labeled a "drone." In fact, if we're going to broaden the definition even the flying equipment used in the Middle East were manned (albeit far, far away). Let's be honest here, which headline is going to make more sales "Drone strike" or "Unmanned aerial vehicle strike."
I thought so.
Since we're on the Middle East
The AUVSI (Association for Unmanned Aerial Systems International) has reported, early February, that Iran was developing a flying robot "to aid drowning swimmers." If these devices were used - and successful - I wonder, are we going to call these drones or robots. Based on the AUVSI brief, these are being referred to as aerial robots. The plan for these are to not equip weapons but are designed to carry up to 15 uninflected life preservers at once.
My guess is they'll probably have cameras. Do you think anyone will argue their privacy is at risk if this thing flew overhead to drop a life preserver on your drowning head?
Let's go back home
I can recall only a hand full of times where a weaponized UAV for law enforcement's use was brought up. None of which were lethal. In their statement on the Senate judiciary committee hearing on UAS, law enforcement and privacy, The AUVSI has said repeatedly they do not support the weaponizing of civil UAS. They even go as far as reminding us that, "The FAA prohibits deploying weapons on civil aircraft."
Later, they add:
"As we focus on the use of UAS by law enforcement, it is important to recognize the robust legal framework already in place, rooted in the Fourth Amendment to our Constitution and decades of case law, which regulates how law enforcement uses any technology – whether it is unmanned aircraft, manned aircraft, thermal imaging, GPS, or cell phones.."
Here, I'll point out an important bit: "recognize the robust legal framework already in place...which regulates how law enforcement uses any technology." While times may change, it is in my understanding there are mandates on the operation of a UAV in law enforcement. Not even the use for it, the mere operation. There are distance, line of sight, weight (As dependent on the size of the device. Note, the majority of UAVs are roughly under 5 pounds. I'm not a physics expert here but my guess is that the life created isn't much, limiting the amount of payload, so let's not discuss ideas of ammunition, a firing system and targeting system.), and - really - battery power. Don't forget training, and the legal documentation saying that Officer Smith has completed their course.
Is the argument against law enforcement utilizing these tools on privacy? Really? Was this argument used with the implementation of dash-cams as well? I'm not seeing a storm around body-worn surveillance, are you?
Isn't there some sort of suggested use, commenting on the limits of how equipment like this can be utilized?
Oh, wait. Yeah, there is:
An excerpt AUVSI's the very same committee hearing statement: "Safeguarding people’s privacy is important to my industry, as well. Last year, AUVSI published a Code of Conduct explicitly directing users to respect individual privacy. AUVSI also endorsed guidelines published by the International Association of Chiefs of Police for the use of unmanned aircraft by law enforcement."