LA’s new unmanned drones cause furor with privacy advocates (also the FAA.)

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LA’s new unmanned drones cause furor with privacy advocates.

It seems that the LA County Sheriff’s Department has all sorts of folks up in arms. They tested a new unmanned arial reconnaissance vehicle for the media last week and immediately came under fire from privacy advocates who feel that a flying unmanned camera constitutes and invasion of their privacy. Uh, what? Didn’t you see all the helicopters with cameras already up there? While I’m normally pretty gung-ho on privacy rights, I have to say that the following excerpt from an article in The Independent seems a bit alarmist:

“A helicopter can be seen and heard and one can make behaviour choices based on that,” said Beth Givens of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. “Do we really want to live in a society where our backyard barbecues will be open to police scrutiny?”

The drone can only fly for an hour at a time, do you really think some sheriff’s deputy is gonna be watching you grill or watching you make out in the pool? It’s an expensive machine in the hands of law enforcement, it’s not as if they’ll be randomly deploying it just to “check up” on illicit BBQ in the neighborhood. Oh, and did I mention that the sky is already filled with helicopters with cameras, not to mention the billions of cameras you walk by everyday on the street?

But that’s not all. . .

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If that wasn’t enough, the LA Times reports today that the FAA has grounded the drones because they didn’t get a certificate of authorization from them. Until the FAA investigation into whether the department should face disciplinary action the drones won’t be authorized to fly.

Engadget has a pretty good summary of the technical side of drone’s capabilities as well as costs associated with it.

these three-pound, six-foot wide drones will initially be used on an as-needed basis to replace helicopters in searching for criminal suspects or lost children and hikers, according to Commander Sid Heal, as the $25,000 to $35,000 upfront cost of each plane will quickly be recouped by the $1,200 saved for every extra hour a copter can stay grounded.

Once all this gets shaken out do you think they’ll let me fly one?

(both images snapped from the manufacturer website: Octatron)

2 Replies to “LA’s new unmanned drones cause furor with privacy advocates (also the FAA.)”

  1. > not to mention the billions of cameras you walk by every day on the street

    If it really were billions of cameras — which I guess could be possible some day if people unleash nanobots with lenses — then you’re right, one more camera in the sky wouldn’t make a difference. Fortunately things aren’t that bad yet.

    But you’re right — people’s images are getting captured much more than they think. Seems like every time a crime happens, there is tape available, not only from the store that got robbed but from the store across the street and so on.

  2. I wish I could be as complacent as you are about local law enforcement, their trustworthiness, and their careful, responsible stewardship of the expensive gadgets that they are issued. Unfortunately, I read the news.

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