Obama releases federal government UAS policy

By Emily Aasand | February 19, 2015

With the recent release of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration proposed regulations on small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), President Barack Obama released a presidential memorandum weighing in on policy and federal government use of UAS.

The document, titled “Promoting Economic Competitiveness While Safeguarding Privacy, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties in Domestic Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems,” laid out policies to promote responsible use of UAVs in the private and commercial sectors.

“The Congress recognizes the potential wide-ranged benefits of UAS operations within the United States in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which requires a plan to safely integrate civil UAS into the National Airspace System by September 30, 2015,” said President Obama.

Obama continued, “As UAS are integrated into the NAS, the federal government will take steps to ensure that the integration takes into account not only our economic competitiveness and public safety, but also the privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties concerns these systems may raise.”

Section one of the memorandum covered UAS policies and procedures for federal government, stating information collected by the federal government using UAS platforms must be consistent with the Constitution, federal law, and other applicable regulations and policies.

The document discussed in-depth policies and procedures for collection and use, retention and dissemination of UAS-collected information.

President Obama also called for the federal government to have transparency about its UAS activities within the NAS, asking for them to provide notice to the public regarding where the agency’s UAS are authorized to operate in the NAS; to keep the public informed about the agency’s UAS program and any changes that would significantly affect privacy, civil rights, or liberties; and to make a general summary of the agency’s UAS operations during the previous fiscal year available to the public.

“In addition to the federal uses of UAS, the combination of greater operational flexibility, lower capital requirements, and lower operating costs could allow UAS to be a transformative technology in the commercial and private sectors for fields as diverse as urban infrastructure management, farming, and disaster response,” Obama said. “Although these opportunities will enhance American economic competitiveness, our Nation must be mindful of the potential implications for privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties. The federal government is committed to promoting the responsible use of this technology in a way that does not diminish rights and freedoms.”

“The Small UAV Coalition especially applauds the Administration’s emphasis on abiding by current privacy rules. Laws exist today to protect consumers, and the Coalition encourages all operators—public and private—to adhere to them,” said Michael Drobac, executive director of the sUAV Coalition.


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