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Drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles, gain more and more popularity nowadays. While some of the states have passed the bills that will help with the regulation of these machines, not all of them decided to allow legal control of the vehicles. Drones are used in various industries: they can deliver purchases, film videos, collect weather data, take part in searches, etc. However, drones are also known to be used as tools for drug dealing, surveillance, and espionage. On the one hand, drones might be helpful during police operations; on the other hand, they are a perfect tool for covert surveillance. Drones can violate personal space if they are not controlled. The mission of this program is to address the violation of privacy by drones and suggest necessary means (a notification system) to guarantee that drones will not hinder public safety.
Although the control of drones has already been implemented by the Federal Aviation Administration, these limitations do not guarantee public safety in the areas where drones are used. To avoid any incidents, the Federal Aviation Administration needs to develop a system or an app that will track down all unmanned aerial vehicles used in a certain area, including drones used by the police. Notifications about the presence of drones will be able to warn citizens that a police operation might be conducted somewhere near them; thus, any involvement of civilians will be prevented. Although the Federal Aviation Administration has a list of strict rules applied to drones, these rules do not guarantee that all owners of unmanned aerial vehicles will follow them. Drones can be used for terrorist attacks: they can be hacked, reprogrammed, shoot down. If an armed police drone is hacked, not only the police but civilians too can be injured or even killed. An application that will notify the user about an approaching drone will help prevent crimes, as well as allow the user to control his or her privacy.
Statement of Need
Drones have been used by the police in various countries for several years now. However, while some of them were engaged in operations that would end unsuccessfully without aerial surveillance, others were used to watch over public places (Finn, 2011). The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Drug Enforcement Administration used drones in some of their operations. Drones of very small sizes, called hummingbird-drones or mosquito-drones are being developed (Reid, 2014). Incorrect use of such drones poses a danger to civilians and the military, as it was proven in the Iraq and Syria wars. Thus, warrants and control of drones by the federal agency are not enough to guarantee public safety. The public needs to have a tool that will allow civilians to be aware of the presence of any drones, even (or especially) military. The current operational limitations are not enough to guarantee public safety in urban areas.
The main goal of the program is to ascertain that public safety will not be hindered by any drones. Drones should not be used as tools for surveillance, but because the public is not able to track or control every drone that is used in the area, it should be allowed to receive notifications about these machines. The program does not aim to ban drones since such means are unnecessary; it proposes a solution to the problem where drones are seen as invaders of privacy and potentially dangerous vehicles.
The aim of the program can be achieved through a smartphone application that will notify the user about approaching drones. Maps of the area can be used as a basis for developing the app; it can cover only the public places or urban areas that are always overcrowded. The notification system could also be implemented in the form of text warnings that are used to warn citizens of approaching storms or other types of natural cataclysms.
Such a notification system can be used to prevent any domestic drones’ accidents that can harm the property or other aerial vehicles. Any long-term usage of drones in a populated area should also be known to the public, especially if a drone is engaged in a tactical operation. However, any details about such operations should be spared because they are also significant for the maintenance of public safety.
All citizens that are interested in preserving their privacy are the potential stakeholders of the notification system. As it was stated in the study conducted by a project team of Institute for Homeland Security Solutions, “a little less than half (44%) report[ed] that they knew just a little or nothing at all about UAS applications in U.S. airspace” (Eyerman et al., 2013, p. 2). Thus, the population of the United States does not regard the drones as a tool that is capable of invading their privacy, but it also is not aware that drones are used by the police and military in the airspace of the country.
The notification system may also attract drone manufacturers and other users of drones that would find this system useful. For example, drones are extensively used in the film industry nowadays. Because citizens have the right to sue a film company if it invaded their privacy during the shooting, companies can be interested in this initiative because it will allow them to operate the drone shootings without conflicts with the locals. Moreover, citizens are only allowed to bring a civil action against a government agency that incorrectly used drones, but other private citizens cannot be sued for the same actions (Reid, 2014). Thus, the notification system will help the citizens protect themselves from civilian surveillance as well.
The agency that is most suitable for the implementation of this program is the Federal Aviation Administration since this government agency has already published a document that limits and controls the usage of drones. The document is called SUMMARY OF SMALL UNMANNED AIRCRAFT RULE (PART 107) and presents the obligatory rules that all owners of unmanned aerial vehicles must follow (Federal Aviation Administration, 2016). The document can be found on the official website of the agency. Most of the rules are focused on the correct piloting of drones and do not regard the privacy issues they might bring.
To implement the notification system successfully, the rules of drones piloting will be reviewed once again. Moreover, to develop an application, the data about the drones used in the area will be needed. The implementation of the proposal and development of the app will take at least one or one and a half years; additional months may be required to pass the reviewed Small UAS Rule.
Although the drones are extensively used by many industries, including the military, the population is not completely aware of what danger such vehicles can bring if it is not used correctly. Drones are used to violate personal space or deliver illegal products. Armed drones, if hacked, are of great danger to civilians and the military. To prevent incidents, the drone notification system must be developed and implemented as soon as possible.
Eyerman, J., Letterman, C., Schanzer, D., Pitts, W., Ladd, K., & Kaydos-Daniels, S. C. (2013). Unmanned aircraft and the human element: Public perceptions and first responder concerns. Web.
Federal Aviation Administration. (2016). Summary of small unmanned aircraft rule (part 107). Web.
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Finn, P. (2011). Domestic use of aerial drones by law enforcement likely to prompt privacy debate. Washington Post, 22(2), 1-6.
Reid, M. (2014). Grounding drones: big brother’s tool box needs regulation not elimination. Richmond Journal of Law and Technology, 20(9), 1-73.