By Ben Wolfgang -The Washington Times

CROWNSVILLE, Md. - Steve Barnett has been flying unmanned aerial systems for more than 30 years — long before the word “drone” started making global headlines.

But now, the 65-year-old Army veteran and model-airplane enthusiast finds himself answering new questions as his hobby gets dragged into a white-hot national debate.

“At no time has the word ‘surveillance’ ever been used. That’s not the reason for us to be out here,” said Mr. Barnett, an instructor with the 80-member Chesapeake Bay Radio Control Club, as he took a break from flying his craft over the group’s sprawling field near Annapolis.

Even just a few years ago, model pilots such as Mr. Barnett wouldn’t have had to address the issue of drones or the Fourth Amendment. That’s quickly changing because of public distress about anything that flies overhead without a human pilot on board.

Mr. Barnett has kept an eye on the rise of the domestic drone industry; more importantly, he is keenly aware of how the cutting-edge crafts are inspiring new federal legislation, state privacy protection laws and other regulations.

“It’ll eventually impact us,” he said, as one of his students worked on a model plane nearby.

A thin, blurry line

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  • When I first wrote the above article I accidentally made a typo (honest) and left the r out of peering.

    Puts a whole different perspective on it.

  • Talk about a tempest in a teapot.

    Virtually no right to privacy or no reality of it anywhere else, but now people fear drones peering in their bathroom windows.

    And Corporations fear civilian whistle blowers using them to put them out of business or worse cost them money.

    And a media fueled hyper issue it has become, with the legislators following right along behind like a batch of greedy cockroaches trying to feed and capitalize on the insanity of the moment.

    Much ado about nothing.

  • Greetings all. I do not want to "hijack" this discussion, but I wish to add this one post..I promise.. to add the links to the Montana Bills for those who are interested (in ref. to UAVs and laws).

    I have found out a bit of info. American Legislative Exchange Council [ALEC] is corporate-funded ...was a driving force behind getting this issue (as I read each state's proposed bills) in so many states, at the same time, and almost in the same wording.
    Montana Senate Bill 150

    Montana SENATE BILL NO. 196
    These last two links are ones which were sent to me (AMA you all are more knowledgeable about than I am), but I plan on writing more letters - even to other states....I think voices need to be heard.

    Proposed law could criminalize FPV in Montana:
    AMA blog @ Montana Bills before the state Senate.

    Cheers,   Byron.
  • Missouri have an anti-drone bill too in the works..

  • Hi Joshua,

    Here's Minnesota's version of the legislation:

    I emailed my local rep and she said the bill was introduced late in the session and never made it to any committees. It would likely need to go through 2 committees before a floor vote and then of course be signed by the gov't.  But it looks like similar legislation is walking through the process in Florida unopposed so there is reason to be concerned.

    I'm sure no one intends to harm hobbiests, but I hate living in a world where I'm legally a felon if someone wanted to push the issue because they didn't like me for some reason, but 'normally' I shouldn't have anything to worry about because the law isn't really intended to affect me.

  • Moderator

    So no APM's to be used in Montana, last time I looked the APM had a temperature sensor on the PCB . it records this info on the laptop or memory card. and we know it. So we all become felons. Its a good job that there are no criminals in the USA or the police will have nothing to do if we stop using our kit. 



  • @Curt,  Do you have a link to the Minnesota Anti-drone bill?!  As a lifelong resident of the Twin Cities area and a student in robotics and UAS this is highly concerning for me.  Time To pack up and move somewhere warm like California! :D

  • Ok, I did try flying a drone with a camera one time, but I didn't actually press record ...

  • And now Florida just voted unanimously on their own similar legislation (so if it's unanimous, maybe I'm misreading the political breezes):

  • Chris: I'm not "talking" politics here, I'm "observing" politics that directly relate to this thread and making comments. :-)  Please, I'm not taking a side here or trying to slant one way or another.  Just making casual observances.

    So in all of this I sense a small bit of politics from the perspective that George W Bush took a lot of heat for his use of military drones.  Fair or not, Obama has substantially increased the use of military drones, but most of the previous drone criticism has now evaporated with a democrat administration in charge.  I smell just a hint of republicans wanting to keep this issue alive as a political crow bar in much of this type of legislation.

    The problem is that when we over legislate and over complicate, we can suddenly turn ordinary law abiding citizens into felons.  These are good people who are doing good and normal things.  We teach model rocketry in middle school.  You can buy a model rocket for < $100 that has a built in video camera.  We could be educating our kids to be felons!

    I think good legislation needs to balance the concerns of privacy, freedom, safety, fairness, and probably a number of other things, not just have a hyper-one-track-focus on a particular ideological principle (such as privacy and nothing else.)

    And even if we all 100% agreed on the ideological principles -- a poor design, or implementation can ruin the whole thing anyways.

    I like to think in engineering terms here (which probably is a bit flawed, but I like analogies as far as you can take them.)  We might have a huge battle in the DIY drones community over which is better: ARM processors or Atmel processors.  We could beat each other up all day long with arguments from both sides plus and minus.  But at the end of the day, if the design is too complicated, it can never be implemented in a finite amount of time; and if the implementation is lousy the result is also lousy ...

    So back to all this legislation.  Forget the ideology and democrats vs. republicans (that's a bit like Mac vs. PC, emacs vs. vi, fedora vs. ubuntu, perl vs. python, drupal vs. joomla, justin biever versus bon jovi, etc.)  What really really matters is that the legislation is well conceived and not overly complex, and that the chosen implementation is executed well; and I think these proposed laws need a lot of work to clear either bar.

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