New York City

Schumer: NYC has become wild, Wild West for drones

Drones spying on us

August 4, 2014 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Sen. Charles Schumer. AP photo
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U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer warned on Sunday that drones are spying on New York City citizens, being used by crooks and sometimes flying out of control.

“New York City has become the wild, Wild West for commercial and hobby drones, and until clear, smart regulations are put in place by the federal government, they will continue to threaten the privacy and safety of New Yorkers,” Sen. Schumer said in a release.

“More and more, small drones are being used by private investigators to spy on unaware New Yorkers or for illegal purposes like drug deliveries, and the lack of clear rules from the FAA holds a great deal of the blame for confusion as to what is legal, and the blatant abuses of this great technology,” he said.

In letters to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Commerce Department, Schumer listed three particular concerns: the use of drones by private investigators to spy on residents, their use by drug dealers, and public safety issues, including a recent incident in which a drone interfered with an NYPD helicopter.

He called on the FAA and the Commerce Department to develop and release privacy rules and guidelines for their use by the end of 2014.

The small, remotely controlled flying aircraft – which have been sighted over the Brooklyn Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge Park — are increasingly being used for commercial purposes. Schumer said that while there are benefits to drone technology, there are also unforeseen consequences.

Schumer wants the FAA to distinguish between hobby and commercial drones, and the legal and illegal uses for each.

Schumer is also pushing the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to prioritize privacy in their guidelines for drone data collection and storage.

Drones are used by the military, firefighters, scientists, news operations and the government to collect data and to aid with border patrol operations, agriculture and more. 

According to the FAA, small drones should not be flown higher than 400 feet or close to airports and densely populated areas.

The ACLU has called for rules to protect America from becoming a “surveillance society” in which “our every move is monitored, tracked, recorded, and scrutinized by the government.”

In a recent statement, the organization said that drones should be deployed by law enforcement “only with a warrant, in an emergency, or when there are specific and articulable grounds to believe that the drone will collect evidence relating to a specific criminal act.”

They also called for the deletion of images when there is no evidence of a crime.

Schumer’s office quotes the Washington Post in citing 15 cases of drones flying too close to airports in the last two years.  Since 2009, there have been 23 accidents and 236 incidents deemed “unsafe” by the FAA, in which registered civilian drones were involved.

This past May a pilot flying into LaGuardia Airport spotted a drone at 5,500 feet in the air. In March 2014, a drone flying in Brooklyn hit two buildings and nearly hit a pedestrian in Manhattan.  This past July, a drone almost collided with an NYPD helicopter over the George Washington Bridge. 

The New York Post reported that private investigators have been using drones to spy on partners cheating on each other and people lying about disabilities.


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