24 January 2014, 11:26

North Carolina policymakers discuss privacy measures for drones

North Carolina policymakers discuss privacy measures for drones

General Assembly members are likely to debate on what rules and regulations North Carolina could place on drones, as a way of protecting people’s private space. Already a House panel held a meeting to look into the use of drones in fields such as agriculture and law enforcement. Committee members are also planning on checking out how to gauge their potential with the constitutional rights of people who might be secretly filmed or have data gathered on them.

Currently, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the most part bans the commercial use of UAVs, however test flights are being done in a wide variety of locations in the US. The tests are being conducted in North Carolina too. The NextGen Air Transportation Center, located on the North Carolina State University campus, is allowed to fly small drones over in Hyde Country as well as in Butner and Moyock.

In the near future, the FAA might allow for software to be hooked up to drones, permitting the collection of data. The NextGen center’s director Kyle Snyder highlighted a study showing that it could create over 1,100 vacancies in North Carolina by the year 2025. The center has a drone which has been snapping photos of farmland. Using such a device could help spot possible crop destruction for a less costly price.

“The industry wants to come here,” Snyder said and then continued, “I’ve got industry partners lined up to say, ‘Yes, if we can fly and we can fly in multiple locations in your state, we’re ready to come.”’ It seems so that the committee’s worry is solely focused on the drone usage by local and state government facilities.

Monroe city has danced around the idea of purchasing a drone for its police force. Once the General Assembly agreed on a budget provision not too long ago, it put a moratorium on governments purchasing and using drones until July 2015 unless the state’s chief information director deems it to be necessary. The provisionary measure also does not allow for personal data to be gathered through the use of an unmanned aerial device during the stated period.

One bill made up a year ago by Representative Mitchell Setzer,a Republican for Catawba, and the study panel’s co-chair would have blocked drone operations by local and state police in criminal investigations. The only way the drones could be used is if law enforcement officials had a search warrant or a reasonable suspicion in which immediate action needed to be carried out.

The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union assisted Setzer with the bill. State ACLU lobbyist Sarah Preston said her group would keep pushing for pro-privacy legislation related to drones.

“There are ways in which the technology can be beneficial, and we certainly don’t want to say you can’t use it at all,” Preston said, “We just want you to abide by the same constitutional protections that you have to abide by when you’re doing other types of surveillance.”

Representative John Faircloth, a Republican for Guilford, a committee member and former High Point police chief, said recently that he can envision police using drones “if it can be done in a way that does not intimidate the public … We’ve got to show that the benefit is worth the investment.”

State Chief Information Officer Chris Estes, who also addressed the committee, said his office is now developing a plan for unmanned aircraft systems within state government.

Voice of Russia, Insurancejournal.com

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