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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Griper Blade: In Defense of Private Drones

Private drone with camera
Wonkblog's Timothy Lee has an interesting piece up on the use of commercial drones and states' efforts to come to grips with them. In case you're not familiar with them, these aren't the rather big pilotless aircraft used so controversially by the military. Instead, these are small aircraft like the remote-controlled model planes we're all familiar with -- except they don't look like models of anything. They're generally helicopter-like, with several rotors for increased stability. And, despite the darker associations the word "drone" carries with it, they're extremely useful.

...Because drones are cheap, light and don’t require a pilot, they can be put in the air for a fraction of the cost of a traditional airplane. That has created new opportunities for everyone from real estate firms to oil and gas companies to PETA  – anyone, in fact, who might have use for an eye-in-the-sky, but doesn’t have the money to hire a pilot and a plane. But the dawning era of cheap, private surveillance is leading a lot of states to ask how these private drones should be regulated.

Animal rights groups, for example, have announced plans to use drones to monitor farms for cruelty to animals. Some farmers are upset about the potential invasion of their privacy. So earlier this year, the Idaho legislature passed a drone privacy bill that specifically requires a farmer or rancher’s permission before a “farm, dairy, ranch or other agricultural industry” can be monitored with an unmanned aerial vehicle.

Does such a prohibition violate the First Amendment rights of animal rights advocates? There’s a good chance the answer is “yes,” but the courts have yet to consider the question.
The most obvious use of a private drone is aerial photography. At least, it's obvious to me. And this sort of thing actually isn't all that new. People use kites for the same purpose -- and have for almost as long as photography has existed...[CLICK TO READ FULL POST]

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