Government Technology

California Senator Calls for Drone Regulations

December 5, 2012 By

In five years, the sky could be filled with flying robots, so there needs to be some ground rules.

On Dec. 3, Sen. Alex Padilla (D-California) introduced a Senate bill in attempt to establish regulations for drones in U.S. airspace. Domestic drones, also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), are now deployed by many government agencies, such as NASA and the Department of Homeland Security. The FAA estimated that there could be more than 10,000 commercial drones in U.S. airspace within five years.

“I am concerned because domestic drones have the potential to be used for surreptitious surveillance activities that infringe upon fundamental constitutional rights." Padilla said in a press release. "We must ensure that there are clear guidelines in place that protect the rights of all Californians. As this technology advances and becomes more widely used, it is imperative that we have clear standards in place for their safe and reasonable use and operation in order to protect the public."

Padilla, who said he believes there are legitimate reasons for concern about privacy, civil liberties and public safety, encouraged proactive behavior on behalf of the government, stating that government is often reactionary when it comes to technology. The time has come, he said, for legislators to consider issues of privacy and safety before things become too difficult to manage.

Though drones are now rarely seen by the public and often pushed to places like the Mexican border or the desert for testing, the increased use of drones for commercial purposes presents a new issue for the public to consider. Not unlike a sci-fi movie, drones could soon be commonly used for advertising, broadcasting, inspections, traffic monitoring, real-estate photography and crop dusting. And just recently, a father built a do-it-yourself quadcopter drone to supervise his son's 400-meter jaunt to catch the school bus.

Photo of Aeryon Scout Micro-UAV by Aeryon

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Richard    |    Commented December 6, 2012

We are insane! All these egos rushing to launch a drone for whatever silly reason infringe on all of us. Society loses and individual rights evaporate.

Doc    |    Commented December 6, 2012

Interesting. California ia in massive debt and here is one of their legilators that thinks this is hot topic that must be pursued? All because a father made one to monitor his son's trip to the school bus stop. And California wonders why they are in debt when their legislators are more concerned with making rules about UAVs.

John C.    |    Commented December 6, 2012

HK's S K Y N E T

Deb    |    Commented December 6, 2012

@Doc - really? That was what you got from this article? That an unrelated anecdote at the end of the piece was the motivation for the legislation? That is quite a stretch. The reason for the legislation is that within the next 3 years the FAA expects 15,000 to 20,000 of these drones, run by commercial interests to be buzzing around gathering who knows what information. And it will only grow from there. Do you know where your children are? Some drone will, and will transmit that to an internet site. Do you know what your ATM PIN number is? So does the drone looking over your shoulder. Do you have an RFID chip in your credit card? The drone flying over you can read it. Is your teenage daughter skinny-dipping in the privacy of your backyard pool? The drone overhead just posted that video to You-Tube. Is your company testing a proprietary new technology? The drone overhead just transmitted that to your competitor, or China. So yes, we need to get control of this before it becomes a MAJOR problem. An dollar of prevention is better than a million dollars worth of cleanup.

Lee    |    Commented December 6, 2012

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. ~Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

Doc    |    Commented December 7, 2012

@Deb - Really? Are you that paranoid about this? So our governments waste billions of our taxpayers dollars (federal and state level) to come up with this 'Star Wars' type prevention. DO you use a cell phone? Guess waht - peopel already know about your personal life, pin numbers, who you have called, etc. because you can buy a device that picks up cell phone calls because it is a radio signal. Oh yeah, you are already being spyed upon by your bank, HSA, youe employer, IRS, etc.

SG    |    Commented December 7, 2012

This is the beginning of S K Y N E T and the end of any privacy as we know it. You can buy a drone in circuit city for less than $300 with an HD camera and it is amazing at what you can see around a neighbourhood. Keep the curtains closed people, everyone will take a peak into your house, and don;t even think for one second that drones will NOT be used by the militarized police for phishing trips. You can best bet ppl will be targeted for the sake of "checking" on them. Think about use cash for alot of stuff...your bank knows it, HSA knows it...police with a drone will be requested to check it out becuase some agency is curious as to why you choose to use cash rather than debit or credit cards...must be a terrorist...lets get our UAV and have a little look see shall we.... The age of privacy and freedom is gone...If you don't realize it, well...i don;t even know what to say about that...just ...wake up people...time to start stocking up on marble sized emp's to knock out U.F.O.'s - Unwanted Flying Objects looking in your windows... if you're not scared now, you soon will be...

Dave    |    Commented February 8, 2013

People of California where I've been born and raised, please open your mine not to fear mongering but to reality and realize this technology can benefit us all, and there is little to no infringing and you're looking at starting stifling everything from hobbyists to legitimate market freedom with your sensationalized, speculative, under educated positions on this subject. The positives from this technology far out weighs the negative and your knee jerk reactions are whats the problem. You're worried people care to look into your windows? They can do this now, how insulting to suggest your neighbors are just waiting for the technology to abuse your rights. Theses are but a few of the benefits of this technology that have no intention of infringing on your privacy: 1) Search and Rescue 2) Disaster Relief 3) Hobby use 4) Agriculture 5) Film Industry 6) Animal/Wildlife Conservation 7) Land Surveying 8) Education - Electronics, Physics, Aeronautics, New industries to young people 9) Fire support - Thermal imaging for buildings fires to work to support forest fires and fire lines 10) Benefits to the economy through all listed above 11) Humanitarian uses in the works If you're worried about Peeping Tom's... well call your local police, you'll hear any of these devices hovering even near your house, but stop with the fear mongering.

D McCoy    |    Commented February 12, 2013

Wow, Dave and Doc, drink the Kool aid! If you honestly believe this technology will be put out there and only used for 'good' you're on crack. Its certainly appropriate for the legislature to put some controls in place before the 'horse is out of the barn.' By the time you realize you're being spied on, it will be too late.

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