Regulating Eyes in the Skies


Congress is trying to get ahead of privacy concerns that could snuff out the growing use of UAVs within the United States.

At least initially, the push is being led by two freshmen Republicans -- Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Rep. Austin Scott (Ga.). The bill that they have introduced in both chambers is fairly basic. Essentially it requires police to seek a warrant before using UAVs for surveillance. 

Practically, it is an attempt to regulate the industry before it is consumed by fears about 24/7 surveillance. 

"We don't want to impede the use of technology. We want to make sure we're protecting Americans' right to privacy," Scott says. "I think that from the industry standpoint, the industry is better served with us establishing the boundaries for this. You're always better off if you know the rules."  

Scott readily admits that the bill is a draft, that could be amended by the House Judiciary Committee. Given that Congress is moving at a glacial pace on legislation this year, and the fact that the bill is not on committee Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith's (R-Texas) radar, it may take some time before the bill receives consideration. 

The House Privacy Caucus led by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) in April wrote to the FAA regarding rules for the use of UAVs in civil airspace. They are still waiting for a response.

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