NAPLES, Fla. - Drone use in the U.S. is expected to skyrocket over the next decade and the American public is on the fence about their use, especially when it comes surveillance and an individual's privacy.
A recent poll claimed more than a third of all Americans worry about "big brother" tracking their every move when it comes to drone use. But drone use is here, and Southwest Florida is poised to cash in!
Last month, United Drones founder Curt Winter gave us a tour of his Naples facility. The cutting-edge technology Curt uses to build unmanned vehicles, or drones, is used for one reason only:
"We are concerned about protecting," he told us.
But he also realizes, there's a push back to what he does.
"It's a double-edge sword. We have a lot of people who think we're spying on them," said Curt.
United Drones Executive Director, Gary Brecka says that's why they're treading carefully.
"There's no question that we have ethical discretion when it comes to selling these products," he said.
Along with carefully vetting their clients, Gary says United Drones has good contracts.
"We don't want to be on the news one day for having sold a drone to somebody who used it for other than a purpose we deem that is reasonable," he explained.
But even a contract might not be enough.
"Surveillance is out there. Surveillance is here to stay. Our mission is to be on the forefront of the regulatory environment so that we regulate how these drones are being used," said Gary.
The American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU, wants to make sure every American's right to privacy, is protected.
"Drones is a technology that has a lot of potential to invade people's privacy," explained ACLU spokesman Jay Stanley.
Stanley wants to see legislation passed at the federal, state and local levels to ensure no one abuses anyone's right to privacy.
"Going back to our founding fathers, if men were angels we wouldn't need these kinds of protections. But we know that humans are not angels and so we need to see in law, protections on how and when drones are deployed," he reiterated.
Mark Bonner is professor at Ave Maria University School of Law in Naples. He sees both the good and the bad, in drones.
"There's a yin and yang," he said. "The pluses are it's hot, hard, and dangerous walking through the cactus in southwest United States. Looking for people crossing the border illegally... It's billions of dollars to supply this border patrol along the borders-- a lot cheaper and more efficient for human beings to have these drones doing it. So it's good, that's a good thing. The bad thing, though... if you're driving around town and there's always this drone following you. You know, again, it would take a lot of joy out of life."
And the way to avoid the bad? Professor Bonner suggested passing some laws.
"Having these measures dealt with by the legislature rather than the courts is the way to go," he explained.
We found that congress is already tackling this issue. While it directed the FAA to clear the way to make it easier for drones to use commercial airspace, a number of bills introduced in the House and Senate would greatly limit drone surveillance.
One bill, the Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act of 2012, was introduced in both the House and the Senate (S. 3287 and H.R. 5925). The proposed legislation would require a warrant first for all unmanned surveillance.
Another proposed piece of legislation, the Preserving American Privacy Act of 2012 (H.R. 6199) would allow unmanned surveillance only if investigating a felony and then only with a warrant.
While everyday drone use in commercial, civil and law enforcement isn't here yet, Gary with United Drones says they are already tackling the privacy concerns head on.
"The technology is here. It exists and people are going to use it. The question is, who do we want in control of that information and that's were United Drones is very strict about who we sell drones to," he said.
As of right now, congress has given the FAA a timeline to figure out how to safely integrate drones into commercial airspace, but a Government Accountability Office report casts doubt that the 2015 deadline will be met in full.
Previous drone stories:
September 27, 2012 6pm -Drones aren't just for military operations anymore
September 27, 2012 11pm - Drone demand could be big boost for economy