Starring in Drone Dynasty

By Katie Kieffer


Image credit: “Quadrocopters” by Ars Electronica on Flickr via Creative Commons.

You are a reality star. You might think no one sees you in your fenced-in backyard grilling hamburgers in your boxer shorts. But government drones equipped with HD cameras are filming a new reality show starring you: “Drone Dynasty.”

In popular reality shows like “Duck Dynasty” and “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” we essentially stalk people as they make fools of themselves on camera. In general, stalking is becoming culturally acceptable as our ability to spy, share and sensationalize life extends beyond reality television.

I use social media just like everyone else; I think sites like Twitter can be both fun and valuable communication tools. Still, I am concerned that as a society we are all becoming so obsessed with sharing every trivial moment of our lives that we are losing an appreciation for private property.

Ask yourself this question: “Why is the federal government able to get by with flying drones over our homes, lands and businesses without a warrant as required per the Fourth Amendment?” Is it because we are becoming careless about our own privacy, ownership and independence?

Private property is the best kind of property. Public parks are nice for a walk or a picnic, but who wants to live in a public park? Who wants to take showers in a public fountain and sleep like a bum on the sidewalk?

Here are some things you need to know about the government’s plans to use drones domestically:

Privacy concerns:
Forget peeping Toms. Police departments are beginning to acquire and use drones like the Dragonflyer X6 and the ShadowHawk helicopter drone for “national security.” It is unconstitutional for the local police to search private property without a warrant and probable cause. Yet it is highly unclear whether law enforcement officers are self-policing themselves and obtaining proper warrants before using drones.

The Washington Post reports: “The FAA plans to begin integrating drones starting with small aircraft weighing less than about 55 pounds. The agency forecasts an estimated 10,000 civilian drones will be in use in the U.S. within five years. The Defense Department says the demand for drones and their expanding missions requires routine and unfettered access to domestic airspace, including around airports and cities, for military testing and training.”

The thought of 10,000 drones zooming around in the airspace above our homes and businesses within the next few years should make you uneasy. What can the federal government possibly need to see?

Transparency and process concerns:
Currently, the FAA is launching six drone-testing ranges in order to integrate drones into U.S. airspace by 2015 per the unconstitutional Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. Basically, our government is feverishly working to fly drones above our heads.

Supposedly the public will have a period to comment and voice privacy concerns regarding these testing ranges. However, when I went to the FAA’s website, I realized that it is very difficult for the public to impact this process. The FAA will allow comments online at: http://www.regulations.gov.

The FAA’s commenting procedures will likely discourage people from posting comments because they are time-consuming and it is unclear whether the comments will even be taken into consideration. Plus, most people are not aware of this website or the FAA’s public commenting deadlines.

Safety issues:
Besides constitutional and freedom issues, how do we know that 10,000 unmanned drones can safely share the same airspace as manned airplanes? How do we know that a drone will not crash and kill human beings or destroy private property? Purportedly, that is what these six drone-testing ranges are for. But technology can malfunction, and unmanned aerial vehicles are particularly prone to malfunction.

TIME Magazine reports: “…in September the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report on drones that expressed serious concerns about, among other things, their unreliable performance, their lack of sense-and-avoid technology that would help them keep from colliding with other aircraft and their lousy electronic security [remote hacking is a cinch].”

So what is the rush to get 10,000 junk-mobiles up in U.S. airspace that could very well collide with other aircrafts or crash and kill human beings? The technology still needs to improve. And, more importantly, warrantless drone searches are unconstitutional.

Why are we silently giving up our right to private property by allowing the government to turn us into reality stars? I mean, at least Kim Kardashian freely chooses to be a reality star and earns a handsome fee to boot. But what do we get in return for starring in “Drone Dynasty?”

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