FAA delaying selection of cities to host drones over privacy concerns, industry still avoiding the issue

FAA delaying selection of cities to host drones over privacy concerns, industry still avoiding the issue

Citing privacy concerns, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has delayed the selection of six cities in the United States which are slated to test unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), better known as drones.

Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has embraced small spy drones and is set to begin new testing programs. A new drone training facility is being built, last year the Pentagon identified 110 sites from which drones can operate, and the military is already sharing information captured by drones inside the United States with law enforcement.
This decision is especially surprising given that the heads of 20 of the nation’s largest aviation industry groups got together to sign a letter calling on the FAA to simply ignore the privacy issues surrounding drones.

Yet, last week it was reported that the acting administrator of the FAA, Michael Huerta, sent a letter to members of the Unmanned Systems Congressional Caucus which “singled out the need to first address privacy concerns that come with increasing the use of drones in the nation’s airspace.”

This drew sharp criticism from some politicians in Washington who support the use of these highly questionable craft.

“It’s unacceptable in my book that they’re delaying this,” said Rep. Steve Austria, an Ohio Republican. “The reasons they’re giving us are the reasons they gave us four years ago.”

Indeed, they are the same reasons but the glaring fact that Austria seems to miss is that these issues have not been properly addressed, let alone resolved.

Yet Austria and those like him seek to completely sideline the genuine privacy concerns in the name of business concerns.

“I’ve spoken to a number of companies who’ve said they would love to build the planes right outside the door of where they could test them,” said Austria.

Others, like Gretchen West, executive vice president of the Association of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems International in Washington, D.C., continue to parrot the line that the FAA has no place dealing with privacy concerns.

“The industry obviously would like to see the process move faster because this technology has the potential to create jobs and save lives,” claimed West.

Yet some in Washington do not seem to be concerned with the FAA’s delay.

Thomas Crosson, the communications director for Rep. Mike Turner, an Ohio Republican, told Wilmington News Journal said that they are indeed confident that the test sites were not in jeopardy.

In the News Journal’s coverage, the coverage unsurprisingly avoids the privacy issues in favor of the potential jobs.

It seems that much of the media, industry groups and our so-called representatives are attempting to completely eliminate the wholly legitimate privacy issues from the conversation.

This seems to be precisely what the pro-drone industry groups are focusing on in claiming that the FAA has no right to even consider such issues.

The looming question is: if the FAA does not consider the privacy issues, who will?

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