Australia needs new laws to handle the operation of drones in civilian airspace. That's the (unsurprising) finding after a seven-month House of Representatives inquiry. The committee has since "urged" the Australian Government to introduce legislation to protect citizens from "privacy-invasive technologies".
While the problems with drones swirl around a heavy upwelling of industry interests, rapid technological change, the impossibility of policing flying gadgets that can cost as little as $50, economic opportunity, people not feeling safe in their homes (or at their windows), ignoring the situation won't help anybody.
We explored CASA's response to the rising tide (wind?) of drones back in early 2012 but the question hasn't gotten any clearer.
Leaving aside questions of air safety (birdstrike is bad enough, but dronestrike?) the House of Reps committee zeroed in on the privacy risks associated with the new tech.
Our publishing stablemates iTnews have reported extensively on the committee findings, but pertinent block quotes include:
"Remotely piloted aircraft (RPAs) have the potential to pose a serious threat to Australians’ privacy. They can intrude on a person’s or a business’s private activities either intentionally, as in the case of deliberate surveillance, or inadvertently in the course of other activities like aerial photography, traffic monitoring or search and rescue."
"As RPAs become cheaper and more capable, and as the instruments they carry become more sensitive, they will provide governments, companies and individuals with the cost-effective capability to observe and collect information on Australians, potentially without their knowledge or consent."
- House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs (via iTnews)
Note the comittee is concerned mainly with remotely piloted drones. The question of autonomous flight-capable platforms is even more problematic.
You can read more about "the drone problem" in the August edition of Australian Popular Science, on sale 31 July 2020.