Drones in UK airspace prompts civil liberties concerns

      A European Commission report has predicted that drones will be seen in skies in the UK within a decade, suggesting that hundreds of firms will develop new uses for them. The claims, however, have prompted concerns from civil liberties groups, who fear that the unmanned aircraft will result in more forms of surveillance. Some 95 percent of drones in operation are used by the military, but the document notes they now also have ‘great potential for civil applications’.

According to The Guardian, currently the United States and Israel produce two-thirds of drones, while Europe produces less than 10 percent. According to the report, some of the possible uses of civilian drones cited in the commission document included using them for ‘risky flights into ash clouds or in proximity of nuclear or chemical plants after major incidents’. In commerce, drones can be used in hundreds of ways such as ‘in agriculture and fisheries, power/gas line monitoring, infrastructure inspection’. It also suggests they could be used in crisis management, law enforcement, border control and firefighting. But campaigners warned that the new generation of drones could have profound consequences for civil liberties.

“With the use of drones in European airspace spiralling, we urgently need greater clarity and transparency about when and how these tools are deployed,” Eric King of Privacy International said. “However, the secretive way in which surveillance drones have been put into operation, and the failure of the police to recognise and address the human rights issues involved, has created a huge potential for abuse,” he added. According to the paper, a report by the US Government accountability office has warned that Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) lack the technological and operational standards ‘needed to guide safe and consistent performance of UAS’.

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