According to the Wall Street Journal, the University of North Dakota is one of dozens of institutions revealed to have received permission to fly drones over domestic airspace according to records released through a FOIA request:
The more than 50 institutions that received approvals to operate remotely piloted aircraft are more varied than many outsiders and privacy experts previously knew. They include not only agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security but also smaller ones such as the police departments in North Little Rock, Ark., and Ogden, Utah, as well the University of North Dakota and Nicholls State University in Louisiana.
The information, released by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, came to light as the Federal Aviation Administration gears up to advance the widespread use of the drones. By the fall of 2015, Congress wants the agency to integrate remotely piloted aircraft throughout U.S. airspace.
Although the documents don’t indicate how the aircraft will be used, the disclosures likely will fuel privacy concerns involving drones.
On Thursday, Democratic Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Republican Rep. Joe Barton of Texas asked the acting administrator of the FAA to answer questions about the privacy implications of increased drone use.
The privacy concerns are legitimate. Were this simply limited to aerial imagery, it’s not such a big deal. I mean, who hasn’t checked out how their back yard looks on Google Maps before?
But these drones can carry additional surveillance equipment, such as infrared sensors and wireless sniffers, that can penetrate the privacy of your home far beyond just some pictures of your home’s roof and yard.
I don’t have problem with these drones per se. They’re a wonderful technological advancement, with plenty of legitimate uses, but the government needs to be 100% transparent in how they’re using them.