Drones and the ‘P________’ word
When AVC first began flying commercial drone operations for its clients, we typically captured all the mission requirements into two objectives: Flight Safety and Data Capture. This is relatively easy to define and to us it quite simply means that each part of the flight profile (FlyPro) is analyzed and must meet either of those two objectives. For instance, situational awareness of the airspace during flight is a key driver towards our Flight Safety objective. Ensuring that a specific altitude is adhered to, contributes to our Data Capture objective. When these two objectives are achieved, we believe the outcome will (in almost all cases) result in a successful delivery of our clients requirements. In other words, Mission Success!
So what happens when a third and often ‘hard to define’ layer is tossed into the mix? Well, over the last year or so it has become increasing apparent that this mysterious and somewhat misunderstood layer has a name: Privacy.
Politically and from a regulations standpoint, it would seem that not much has been done to quench the public’s thirst for “assured privacy” as it pertains to the use of drones. Some would argue that while you don’t own the airspace even 1 inch off your lawn, it should be expected that a flying camera overhead should never get closer to your ‘privacy bubble’ by less than 1000 feet. On the flip side, there are likely an equal number of recreational and commercial operators who will say, “Google does it, why can’t I?”.
In some Canadian cities and many states in the US, politicians are leading a charge to either heavily restrict or flat out ban the use of drones as a response to what they deem is a public outcry against these airborne privacy killers. Now as an operator of some very sophisticated drones I can say that what we DO and what we COULD DO are in two drastically different camps. As a commercial operator who values its integrity and reputation, I can guarantee that AVC does not condone the operation of its aircraft in a manner that intentionally infringes on the public’s right to privacy. Having said that, I’d be willing to bet that at some point in the future, we will likely be challenged on that right to privacy because there are so many varying opinions about what that is. There will always be the person who believes that all drones are evil, all people who fly them are evil and regardless of our intended use and business ethics, we will stray from those eventually. Think it’s a bit nuts? I do to but we wouldn’t be having this conversation if someone hadn’t already had it with me.
So where does that leave us now? We approach Mission Success from this view: Because it’s no longer sufficient to focus on 2 objectives, we must consistently push to achieve all 3. The target to hit can be very small and even move around from time to time but the reward for hitting the bulls eye is huge!
For more info on what the privacy issue looks like today, check out this paper titled ‘Domestic Drones and Privacy: A Primer‘ by the Congressional Research Service in the US.