Archive for Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Editorial: Drone policy?

Lawrence doesn’t need to be a pacesetter in establishing municipal policy on drone aircraft.

August 21, 2013


A drone policy? Really?

Of all the matters and issues of consequence that the Lawrence City Commission might need to tackle, a drone policy may be least likely to rise to the top of the list.

Mayor Mike Dever pegged it: “If we’re interested in having drones, then we probably would need to have a policy. I personally don’t foresee any application for drones that I would see as a reasonable extension of city oversight or law enforcement activities.”

Dever’s comments came in response to clamor from a group of local organizations intent on making Lawrence one of the first cities in the nation to pass an ordinance limiting the ability of police or other city departments to use drones.

Ben Jones, who leads the organization, Kansans for Responsible Drone Use, sees this as an opportunity for the city “to be a leader both in the state and the country.”

Great! Perhaps that would move Lawrence ahead of or at least in a tie with Deer Trail, Colo., where the proposal was to offer up hunting licenses and bounties for shooting down the unmanned aircraft. Not that Lawrence needs to provide any additional evidence to other Kansans of its remarkable political nature.

But let’s be clear. These drones are not your miniature aircraft of the sort flown by hobbyists at Clinton Lake. These are full-scale, pilotless airplanes used for surveillance and as weapons.

Let’s be clear also that any local policy would not control how the federal government chooses to use drones, and acknowledge that proponents of the policy are not seeking to limit commercial activities involving drones.

If, at a future date, these devices seem to be needed for some legitimate purpose in Lawrence, then certainly a policy should be developed in the context of the time that’s pertinent to the intended use, providing appropriate guidelines and limitations. Absent that set of facts, this is not a situation calling on Lawrence for national leadership.


Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 4 years, 7 months ago

I would think that there are lots more pressing issues for the city commission to address. This is just plain silly.

Patrick Wilbur 4 years, 7 months ago

"If, at a future date, these devices seem to be needed for some legitimate purpose in Lawrence, then certainly a policy should be developed in the context of the time that’s pertinent to the intended use, providing appropriate guidelines and limitations."

Actually this is the point of the resolution. Waiting until this becomes an issue is bad policy if you value civil liberties.

Patrick Wilbur

Fred Whitehead Jr. 4 years, 7 months ago

I knew the very minute that some mention of farmers using drone devices to inspect their crops that some idiots would surface screaming and yelling about government spying.

Paranoia is the staple of these nuts of the left and right (difficult to tell which direction they swing) . It is so silly and stupid that it does not even merit meition in the public midia.

But in Lawrence, such garbage is the staple of common discourse, so we will witness this paraniod parade of those who will find anyting to make a stink about.

TocquevillesGhost 4 years, 7 months ago

Let's not be a leader? That's not exactly the most inspiring editorial that I've read. It's sad that a "liberal" paper like the Lawrence Journal-World has so little concern for civil liberties. Too often in recent years we have compromised on civil liberties, and we've ended up with things like NSA spying and the Patriot Act. Drones are not a futuristic technology that might be used 50 years in the future. Police departments already are purchasing this technology and beginning to use it. Law enforcement officials in Lawrence have been some of the individuals most receptive to discussing this issue, because they realize that colleagues in other parts of the country are adopting this technology and that it's sensible to begin tackling this issue. Putting off protections on civil liberties usual is a guarantee for seeing them violated.

sharond 4 years, 7 months ago

I applaud the Kansans for Responsible Drone Use for taking the initiative in this matter. Waiting until your civil liberties have been compromised is too late to begin objecting. I hope that this effort will serve as a blueprint for other cities in Kansas -- indeed, in the nation -- to begin protecting the privacy of their citizens.

kawrivercrow 4 years, 6 months ago

Wait ten years and see how radically the prevalence of drones will have escalated in both the public and private sector.

Just look at cell phone technology and how it mushroomed over the past realize that drones are much much easier to advance. Now, factor in the soon-to-arrive wave of personal 3-D printers coupled with the tech-savvy minds of today's youth becoming tomorrow's build-it-yourselfers.

I think Deer Trail, CO may actually have the right idea, within limits.

bearded_gnome 4 years, 7 months ago

it is certainly not too soon to consider drone policy! the technology has been here. the surveilance technologies and weapon tech to place on them has arrived.

and, BTW, should we wait until some depredation is associated with one? no.

also should we now await a depredation associated with the LPD armored car to publicly discuss policies relevant to it? no.

such policies will, it is hoped, prevent trouble. they will also help Lawrence citiens feel safer in their homes and their lives.

Quigebo 4 years, 7 months ago

"But let’s be clear. These drones are not your miniature aircraft of the sort flown by hobbyists at Clinton Lake. These are full-scale, pilotless airplanes used for surveillance and as weapons."

.....the one thing that is clear is that editorial author does NOT know what he is talking about.

UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), sometimes referred to as UASs (Unmanned Aerial Systems) come in many shapes and sizes, and the technology has advanced to the point where planes the size used by hobbyists (even the same exact planes used by hobbyists), outfitted with a small camera and flight computer can be sent on a predetermined flight path to collect imagery. Specialized software is then used to georeference the imagery and stitch it all together for use in GIS mapping software (think GoogleEarth, which is just a massive database of spatial data). This is done routinely from manned aircraft with all kinds of applications (USDA crop compliance program, county/city assessors use it to check for new structures/map impervious surfaces for storm sewer taxation, etc., disaster response...the list is very long). Different application call for different levels of detail (spatial resolution, or pixel size). The link below has aerial photos paid for by you, the taxpayer, for 2006 and 2009.
The nominal resolution of these images is about 6 inches, which is sufficient for the city/county to do what it needs to do with it. With a UAV/UAS this could be 1-inch, or better. That's thirty-six times the detail - and it would be cheaper.

I personally know at least a dozen people, professionals, not hobbyists, who have these systems and use them for research purposes. If you think the routine use of these systems isn't coming , you are wrong. It's not a matter of if, it's when.

I think that the point that the group in question is trying to make is valid, and the editorial author is just ignorant of the state of the technology and the very real implications for privacy that are present. There are many important uses for these types of imagery, but the fidelity of the images is such that this discussion needs to take place.

Kathleen Ammel 4 years, 6 months ago

"Let’s be clear also that any local policy would not control how the federal government chooses to use drones..." That's an issue to be argued under another amendment but just because a city resolution might not curtail our federal overseers from using drones in inappropriate ways, why would we not want to curtail our local overseers from using them inappropriately? One layer of overreach is not enough? Just think if the city police were routinely collecting all of our emails & phone records like the NSA is doing. Would we not want to put an end to any department, no matter what level, that is infringing on our civil liberties? And I thought Lawrence considered itself a leading city!

cabmando 4 years, 6 months ago

Hey paranoia strikes deep, into your heart it will creep. For What Its Worth

Richard Heckler 4 years, 6 months ago

Charlottesville, Va Becomes First US City To Ban Government Spy Drones

Yesterday we brought you news on the efforts of the House of Delegates and the Senate in Virginia to bring about a two year moratorium on the use of surveillance drones by government and law enforcement agencies. Today we learn that Charlottesville, Va has passed legislation to outlaw the use of drones, making it the first US city to do so.

In a 3-2 vote, city councilors passed the anti-drone resolution Monday, echoing the State level effort to halt the use of drones for the next two years. There will, in effect now be a ban on the craft entering Charlottesville city limits, prohibiting any city agency from using the technology. The council will urge the Virginia General Assembly and Congress to keep drones out of local air space.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 6 months ago

The Seattle City Council approves restrictions on use of surveillance equipment but exempts police investigations.

By Lynn Thompson Seattle Times staff reporter

Any city department that wants to use surveillance equipment, including drones and cameras, would have to get prior approval under legislation approved unanimously by the Seattle City Council on Monday.

Departments would have to spell out how they plan to use the devices, and the City Council would hold a public hearing on the proposal before giving its OK.

But the bill included a last-minute amendment that exempts the Police Department for temporary uses if the technology is part of a criminal investigation or approved under a search warrant. Privacy and civil-rights advocates objected that the change had not received public scrutiny and could weaken the bill.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 6 months ago

Some communities are interested in protecting a citizens right to privacy It seems. There are more for sure.

smileydog 4 years, 6 months ago

Drone policy? More important is couch policy, chicken policy, hedgehog policy, firework policy, transgenders able to use either sexes public bathroom policy, etc. Those are the important issues...not drones invading our privacy.

kernal 4 years, 6 months ago

i can see where a surveillance drone might be handy in the aftermath of a massive earthquake and maybe a massive forest fire like the one currently raging in Wyoming, but those would be drones from FEMA and the U.S. Forest Service, not small towns like Monroe, NC, population under 40,000, whose city council approved the purchase of one.

Quigebo 4 years, 6 months ago

Ask yourself, what is this 2,400,000 square-foot facility, completed in 2011.....

what do you think they do there? Follow the clues.....

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