The Government Accountability Office is warning Congress that its push for drones to become commonplace in U.S. airspace fails to take into account concerns surrounding privacy, security and even GPS jamming and spoofing.
The GAO, Congress’ research arm, was responding to the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, signed by President Barack Obama in February, which among other things requires the Federal Aviation Administration to accelerate drone flights in U.S. airspace.
Drones, known in the report as “unmanned aerial systems,” are currently limited in the United States to law enforcement activities, search and rescue, forensic photography, monitoring or fighting forest fires, border security, weather research, and, among other things, scientific data collection and for hobby.
But there’s a concerted push to expand the commercial use of drones for pipeline, utility, and farm fence inspections; vehicular traffic monitoring; real-estate and construction-site photography; relaying telecommunication signals; fishery protection and monitoring; and crop dusting, according to the report, which was distributed to lawmakers earlier this month.
That’s despite the fact that many drones don’t have “elaborate on-board detection systems to help them avoid crashes in the air,” which could cause complications when and if drones share airspace with private aircraft.
Among other things, the report urged the Transportation Security Administration to come up with a plan to secure operation centers for unmanned drones, recommended the government formulate privacy protections to head off “abuses” and also pointed out safety concerns that need to be addressed regarding GPS spoofing and jamming.