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Udall Developing Legislation to Protect Americans' Privacy from Private Drone Operators

Domestic Unmanned Aerial Systems Can Serve Critical Purposes But Need Common-Sense Oversight

Posted: Monday, March 25, 2013

Mark Udall announced today that he is developing legislation to ensure that privacy rights are protected as new and innovative private sector drones for domestic use become more prevalent. Unmanned aerial systems technology has the potential to create jobs and provide significant benefits for local law enforcement and private businesses, but current privacy safeguards — at the state and federal levels — have not kept pace with the technology's capabilities.

Udall is working to update safeguards to protect Americans from being surveilled by private drone operators without their consent, addressing concerns raised by his constituents while helping to head off possible legal problems for an emerging and potentially important industry for Colorado.

"Private sector drones and unmanned aerial systems could positively reshape numerous industries and efforts, from search-and-rescue operations to agriculture and local TV news. But the only way to truly embrace these innovative, job-creating technologies, is to assure the public that these technologies will not compromise Coloradans' basic privacy rights," Udall said. "I am working to finalize legislation that will respond to the concerns of Coloradans who want to ensure that there are common-sense safeguards to protect them from the improper use of drones."

Udall's announcement follows a hearing during which the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony from experts on the domestic use of private drones, including a representative of the Mesa County Sheriff's Office.

The Federal Aviation Administration estimates there could be as many as 30,000 unmanned aerial vehicles in U.S. airspace within the next decade. Udall is committed to ensuring that emerging technologies such as private drones do not infringe on constitutional rights or threaten the personal safety of Americans.

Legislation Congress passed last year recognized the need for reasonable regulations to responsibly drive the unmanned aerial systems market, proposing as a first step the establishment of six unmanned aerial systems test sites across the country. An alliance of organizations and businesses in Colorado is preparing to submit an application to the FAA for one of the six unmanned aerial systems test sites, an effort Udall supports.

By: Mike Saccone
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