A hot new federal law approved by President Barak Obama loosens the Federal Aviation Administration rules about unmanned drones, which from now on can be used much easier for private applications. FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act of 2012 signed on Tuesday, last week frees the use of surveillance drones from tight FAA rules.

You Can Now Legally Play Around With Your Drone

surveillance drone

Previously, FAA restricted the use of surveillance drones to government agencies and applications for private use were drastically limited. Now, all this is about to change. The small unmanned drones, up to 4.4 pounds will be allowed to fly. In addition, further drone regulations must be prepared in the next three years, by September 2015.


The Good

There is huge potential for the surveillance drones, which include life saving applications, crop surveillance, commercial uses such as real estate photography from aerial view. Also, oil spills can be monitored with a better accuracy or rescue teams can easier coordinate their efforts. Technically, applications are endless and no one is denying that. starting of course with drone manufacturers who now have a new market.

The surveillance techniques brought by the unmanned drones are based on a full range of technologies and these advantages are expected to grow as the devices reach to the public and the competing companies in the business are expected to fight for a market with huge potential. For now, the technology allows high power zoom lenses, night vision based on infrared and ultraviolet imaging allowing capturing light outside the spectrum visible to the human eye, see through imaging currently deployed by military applications, video analytics. And if this is quite impressive for just one air surveillance drone, imagine a swarm of these machines providing huge examination capabilities.

The Bad

flying drone

The new legislation is already controversial, though. On the flipside, there is a strong concern for privacy. If air surveillance becomes so easy, who’s to say that people won’t abuse of a new found freedom? Already, Hollywood movie stars know how easy it is for trained and inquisitive photographers to intrude in their lives, and now with the widespread availability for surveillance tools, the problem could become general.

There are voices that point out that exceptions shouldn’t raise enough concern to kill a good law. Ryan Calo, director of privacy and robotics at the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford University says that the situation is not really expected to get worse when it comes to privacy matters.

“As privacy law stands today, you don’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy while out in public, nor almost anywhere visible from a public vantage,”

he said to New York Times.

The Ugly

Three months ago, the American Civil Liberties Union published a comprehensive report with Recommendations for Government Use of Drone aircraft. The organization points out that without rigorous legislation, people can be easily watched without they even knowing and this could turn into abuse. To even know that there is the possibility of being watched, could alter our state of mind, warns ACLU:

“What would be the effect on our public spaces, and our society as a whole, if everyone felt the keen eye of the government on their backs whenever they ventured outdoors? Psychologists have repeatedly found that people who are being observed tend to behave differently, and make different decisions, than when they are not being watched,”

says the report.

Now that the public has been given a new freedom, it’s only a matter of managing it, as it is with any free choice. Despite opposed opinions, there is always some middle ground where the population will find its peace of mind. And, if you ask me, I think the legal approval for the use of surveillance drones is a great breakthrough for our society.

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is the Managing Editor of Technically Personal. When he has some extra-time, he writes about Windows 8 apps and reviews them on Wind8Apps. Believes that technology is the main engine of civilization. Send him a tweet or make him your Facebook friend