The expansion of military drone technology for surveillance and other domestic uses has the potential to create thousands of new jobs, but it remains unclear what privacy safeguards will be put in place or how usage will be restricted to protect citizens.
“This isn’t the Wild West and we have to have some sort of rules governing how those drones are going to be used,” said Mike Brickner, a spokesman with the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio. “We don’t want drones to be flying everywhere, deployed and taking pictures of Americans walking down the street not really doing anything.”
Advocates say such concerns are unfounded, and communities will set rules for deploying unmanned aerial vehicles, just as police have rules for pulling a gun or a Taser on a suspect.
“It’s like anything: reasonableness and common sense is going to prevail,” said Michael K. Farrell, president of the Ohio chapter of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.
The debate over regulating a possibly booming industry comes as Congress pushes to integrate remotely piloted vehicles into manned airspace by 2015. The Federal Aviation Administration has projected a fleet of 10,000 small UAVs within five years and up to 30,000 within two decades.
Ohio has a huge stake in the outcome. Southwest Ohio is in competition for one of six sites nationally to test UAVs, which could boost a growing industry in the Miami Valley. The region ranks as a hotbed for UAV development with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and university research centers; aerospace, advanced materials and information technology defense contractors; and educational training, such as at Sinclair Community College.
“We are the natural center for this,” said Deb Norris, the college’s vice president of workforce development and corporate services...