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Drone Use Takes Off On The Home Front

Publication Date: 
April 20, 2012
Source: 
The Wall Street Journal
Author: 
Andy Pasztor and John Emshwiller

Ryan Calo, CIS Director of Privacy and Robotics, spoke with The Wall Street Journal's Andy Pasztor and John Emshwiller regarding the domestic use of drones and why he expects the usage to grow.

With little public attention, dozens of universities and law-enforcement agencies have been given approval by federal aviation regulators to use unmanned aircraft known as drones, according to documents obtained via Freedom of Information Act requests by an advocacy group.

The more than 50 institutions that received approvals to operate remotely piloted aircraft are more varied than many outsiders and privacy experts previously knew. They include not only agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security but also smaller ones such as the police departments in North Little Rock, Ark., and Ogden, Utah, as well the University of North Dakota and Nicholls State University in Louisiana.

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Ryan Calo, who conducts research into privacy and robotics at Stanford Law School, said the domestic use of drones will likely grow as more machines are brought back from war and as prices fall.

"The very same drone that was staking out a nest of insurgents and possibly shooting them could be deployed in New York for surveillance" after removal of weaponry, Mr. Calo said. He said the use of drones could spark a wider debate about privacy because people aren't accustomed to such technology. "If you bring back a tank from Afghanistan, you don't expect it to show up in a park," he said.