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Americans are increasingly familiar with drones, also known as Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). These devices have become one of consumers’ most popular technology purchases; some estimate nearly one million new drones will be purchased in 2016. Many consumer drones are controlled by tablet or smartphone, and feature high-definition cameras, GPS, and the ability to fly autonomously. Commercially available drones are even more sophisticated, and are increasingly used for a variety of activities, including monitoring and inspection, news reporting, search and rescue of missing persons, and delivery of commercial packages or medicine to rural areas. With potential to transform entire industries, the devices may generate significant economic benefits. Although drones may offer society numerous benefits, the potential for information collection through filming, photography or other types of monitoring raises the potential for consumer harms including invasion of privacy, identification, trespass, and harassment. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) recently convened multi-stakeholder meetings to develop and communicate best practices for privacy, accountability, and transparency issues regarding commercial and private drone use. The drones workshop will explore the following questions related to commercial uses of drones:
What are the present capabilities of drone technologies?
What technology do we foresee in the near future? In the longer term? What privacy concerns do drones raise? Are these concerns unique to drones, or are drones no different from other technologies? For people whose information may be captured by drones, what is the best way to provide transparency?
Given the difficulties of providing consumers with meaningful choices, what should the rules around privacy look like? Should there be limits on data collection or limits on use?