WASHINGTON – An industry group has released a “code of conduct” for the “safe, non-intrusive operation” of civilian drones.
Michael Toscano, president of the Association for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Systems International, said Monday (July 2) in a statement that the industry guidelines were designed to “ensure unmanned aircraft are integrated responsibly into civil airspace.” They are also intended to “minimize risk,” he added.
The Federal Aviation Administration is currently establishing safety standards for integrating unmanned aircraft into the nation’s airspace by September 2015. The FAA is currently selecting six test sites to evaluate drones for a range of “eye in the sky” applications.
While safety is a key issue in the effort to integrate drones into the already crowded skies, privacy has also emerged as a concern. Hence, the industry group’s code of conduct stresses that trained operators must “respect the rights of individuals” along with “the rights of other users of the [U.S.] airspace.”
“As with any revolutionary technology, there will be mishaps and abuses; however, in order to operate safely and gain public acceptance and trust, we should all act in accordance with these guiding themes and do so in an open and transparent manner,” the guidelines state.
The unmanned aircraft association’s membership includes small and large unmanned aircraft builders ranging from Intel Americas Inc. and iRobot Corp. to Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin. The group has scheduled a privacy review panel later this month in advance of it annual North American meeting in Las Vegas from Aug. 6-9.
The essence of privacy is knowing when you have it. How will civilian drones inform us when we're being observed? Reasoned assumptions regarding when and where we can be observed or heard (including on our own property) are no longer going to be valid.
I would think that such a code may not help much to distinguish the criminal from the innocent. While most of the code followers would be the innocent, the criminal will follow or not follow any and all of the codes to suit their nefarious purposes.
What such a code can do is help guide the folks that want to do things right. It can act essential as a safety and courtesy checklist.
"Eye in the sky" applications for rescue operations and law and order surveillance seem to be the benevolent side of civilian drones. And an Industry Code of Conduct is a noble start. But I wonder if a voluntary declaration is enough of a net to catch the criminal from the innocent. And what would prevent a homeland terrorist organization from hijacking a couple of civilian drones, retrofitting them with small rockets and take down some landmarks? There's more than safety and security that are at risk here.