More businesses are using unmanned aerial vehicles for surveillance and research. While the technology is cost-efficient and practical, some are worried about its potential to violate privacy and data protection laws.
The western-German town of Düren was in turmoil. A small drone was circling slowly and deliberately over the local school. The result: nervous residents, curious glances, frightened whispers. Many locals asked if this was a secret military operation or some sort of new state surveillance program. But in the end it turned out that a photo and film production company had been using the drone to make 360-degree aerial shots.
Such scenes are increasingly common, as more and more private companies in Germany employ the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones. They’re used for photography, map-making and surveillance of large solar farms, industrial complexes, gas pipelines or construction sites. According to an unpublished report by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development, businesses, universities and individuals have submitted 500 applications to use drones in the last two years, and most of them have been approved.