Americans are increasingly familiar with drones, also known as Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). These devices have become one of consumers’ most popular technology purchases; some estimate nearly one million new drones will be purchased in 2016. Many consumer drones are controlled by tablet or smartphone, and feature high-definition cameras, GPS, and the ability to fly autonomously. Commercially available drones are even more sophisticated, and are increasingly used for a variety of activities, including monitoring and inspection, news reporting, search and rescue of missing persons, and delivery of commercial packages or medicine to rural areas. With potential to transform entire industries, the devices may generate significant economic benefits. Although drones may offer society numerous benefits, the potential for information collection through filming, photography or other types of monitoring raises the potential for consumer harms including invasion of privacy, identification, trespass, and harassment. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is currently convening multi-stakeholder meetings to develop and communicate best practices for privacy, accountability, and transparency issues regarding commercial and private drone use. We expect these meetings will provide important input for the Commission’s event. The drones workshop will explore the following questions related to commercial uses of drones:
What are the uses and consumer benefits of drones for consumers today? Where is drone technology headed?
- What are the unique privacy and security concerns associated with drone technologies and the data collected from them?
- How are these concerns currently being addressed by businesses, self-regulatory efforts, and foreign regulators?
- Is there a need for further guidance?