The dates and locations of drone flights must be made clear and known in advance. That’s the opinion of Rob van Nieuwland, president of drone association DARPAS.
“Once you do that, you remove the sting out of the privacy debate. Many people now wonder why the drones above buzzing above our heads,” says van Nieuwland.
Drones are unmanned aircrafts that can be remotely controlled or pre-programmed. They are equipped by the U.S. military with weapons and deployed in Afghanistan. In the Netherlands they are solely equipped with cameras and measuring devices.
“You need to see where a drone is flying and what they are doing there in advance.”
Drones are deployed with permission of the Ministry of Defense and used for exercises, dike monitoring and intrusion prevention since 2009. Research by NU.nl shows that drones are used at least 551 days since August 2009.
Every two days
In 2012, every two days a portion of airspace in the Netherlands was deposited for drones to fly. Such partial deposition of airspace need to be published in the Government Gazette.
In 2011, 87 percent of the flights were announced in advance. Last year, that was true in only half of all cases. For now, the counter in 2013 to 16 percent, though that measured for only 36 flight days.
According to the DARPAS chairman, transparency may have a preventive effect on these flights. “No burglar will go out at night when he knows in advance that he is being watched. But then you have to be transparent about the use of drones.”
“However, the drone flights from the government or the tip of the iceberg. Besides individuals who purchase a plane, there are more and more companies which make recordings with drones. Clear agreements have to be made.”
DARPAS currently has over 30 members, both manufacturers of drones as companies that make air recordings. In the Netherlands, about 115 companies are in this business.
“These companies make aerial photographs, videos of events, keep an eye on bird sanctuaries or detect drowning swimmers.”
According to Van Nieuwland, several parties are currently in conversation to develop a website on which flight records are announced.
“In addition, there should be more clarity about the collected information. How safe is it stored and how long will it be held?”
Earlier this month, Gerard Schouw and Magda Berndsen of D66 asked questions to the Minister of Security and Justice Ivo Opstelten about the transparency of drone flights. The answer is expected in April.
“The only thing that we can say about it now is that the drones are used for observation by the police. These images are not saved,” said a spokesman for Opstelten.