The American drone market has grown by leaps and bounds in the last several years, from policing to production. Drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) make it possible to obtain high-quality imaging whether scanning large areas or focusing on far-away details. UAVs’ rapid expansion draws on a technological shift toward autonomous, on-board control that simultaneously raises concerns for civil liberties.
A drone is a simplified aircraft controlled by an on-board computer or remote pilot. Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) attach a live-feed, infrared, or other camera to deliver extraordinary surveillance. Such systems help centralize monitoring, eliminate on-site assistance needs, and ensure greater quality control. UAS thus provide a powerful jump forward for monitoring, policy compliance, and minimizing costs while maximizing feedback. These systems are commonly used to support crop and livestock management, power line and pipeline inspection, environmental protection, natural disaster mitigation, and policing and Border Patrol assistance.
In the midst of rapid growth, UAV legislation has had difficulty keeping up. While the Modernization and Reform Act (2012) provided a strong foundation for the industry’s expansion, questions quickly arose about possible loopholes. Critics have pointed out the potential for cracking wifi, intercepting texts or calls, and otherwise monitoring citizens without due process. This is an especially important issue due to the current jump in public and private drone use, with as many as 30,000 taking to the skies by 2020. Without proper regulations, the same technology that supports public safety may be used to enact an unprecedented invasion of privacy. Through superior situational awareness, drones have become a powerful technology in the United States and beyond. In order to keep up with the UAV and UAS industry, legislation is currently being adapted to protect privacy and civil liberties, and to avoid misappropriation.