Parrot AR.Drone causes German politicians to debate privacy and sUAS

Minister Ilse Aigner

Deutsche Weller reports that the German Consumer Affairs Minister Ilse Aigner believes sUAS are a privacy threat. The people at Parrot did themselves no favours when their advertising campaign which features a team harassing private individuals around the world caught the eye of the UKs CAA.  The iPhone controlled multi rotor flying platform is a relatively simple device that can only fly in low wind speeds and over a short distance. It will be interesting to see if the ministers comment will lead to tighter regulation within Germany.

Flying drones that take pictures of foreign subjects may sound like part of a military arsenal, but they’re also available to consumers now. Consumer Affairs Minister Aigner has called the new devices a privacy threat.

They fly, take pictures, can be operated remotely and even come with an auto-pilot feature to land safely in case their owner gets distracted.

The flying miniature drones are marketed as the AR.Drone by wireless device manufacturer Parrot and have been available in German electronics stores since summer 2010.

But some German politicians are concerned about privacy issues relating to the toys priced at 299 euros ($393) and steered by devices like the iPhone and iPad.

“Even just by using the small, helicopter-like hobby models, people can quickly go beyond the limits of the law,” said Ilse Aigner, Germany’s consumer affairs minister, in an interview with the Deutsche Presse Agentur.

For example, if hobbyists or children fly the AR.Drone onto neighbors’ property and capture images of them in their home without their permission, the photographs could already stand in violation of data privacy laws.

Smaller and cheaper

Politicians from the Left Party in Germany have called for legal limits on using the drone cameras, citing concerns about the future as similar devices become smaller, cheaper and more available.

“As the technology becomes cheaper, it’s also going to be used more broadly,” said Jan Korte, a data protection expert within the party, in an interview with the Deutsche Presse Agentur.

“People should not be able to use the drones to pry into the private sphere of others.”

But there is not yet widespread discussion about changing federal laws to deal more clearly with the legal issues raised by cameras like the AR.Drone, said a representative of the Federal Commission for Data Protection and Freedom of Information, which advises the parliament on privacy issues.

Author: Greg Wiser
Editor: Cyrus Farivar