On Thursday, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) proposed to amend the “minibus” appropriations bill in a move that would essentially prohibit the Federal Aviation Administration from implementing a final ruling to allow for the civil operation of drones until privacy measures are put in place.
According to TheHill, the amendment “would require the FAA to add a data collection mechanism to its application process for commercial drone use that specifies ‘who will operate the drone, where the drone will be flown, what kind of data will be collected’ and what will happen to the information afterwards.”
“We need to build in strong personal privacy protections and public transparency measures before commercial drones take off, which is exactly what my amendment will do,” Markey said in a statement. “This will allow the drone marketplace to evolve and mature, while at the same time we protect people’s privacy.”
Senator Markey’s amendment would also require law enforcement agencies to provide a detailed explanation of how they will temper the data collected via drone that is otherwise unrelated to the case at hand.
The amendment is attached to a funding bill that also addresses the appropriations for organizations like NASA and NOAA for fiscal year 2015.
“Legislation that imposes restrictions on an entire class of technology is short-sighted,” Brendan Schulman, head of the civilian drone practice group at Kramer Levin and the lawyer for the defense in the infamous Raphael Pirker case, told Dronelife. “There are countless beneficial applications for commercial drones that do not raise privacy concerns. When cameras first came to be installed in cell phones, we protected privacy by restricting where the cameras could be used, we didn’t require every use of a camera to be reported to the government, as this proposed legislation would.”
While this proposed amendment would throw an additional wrench in the the FAA’s already painstaking process of making a ruling on commercial UAS, it might prove to be too little, too late.
The FAA recently approved the first commercial flight of a drone and is facing a heavy lobbying effort from the motion picture industry to get an expedited ruling on drones for use in film production ahead of the blanket ruling.
On top of this, more and more people are flying drones everyday, both privately and for commercial use, without permission from the FAA. If another step is added to the process of regulating these pilots, the number of unauthorized drones in the sky will only multiply.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com