Law enforcement drone use possibly a slippery slope

This week the North Dakota Highway Patrol was granted a waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration to operate drones/Unmanned Aircraft Systems over people.

The NDHP is the first highway patrol agency in the nation to be granted this waiver, which was approved for four years.

The highway patrol has a solid case for the benefits the use of drones will provide. It will allow more efficient inspection and analysis of accident scenes. Drone use would also be useful for search and rescue operations and locating missing persons or fleeing suspects.

Given North Dakota’s wide open spaces and terrain, it makes sense for NDHP to pursue and presumably be testing grounds for this manner of drone use.

That said, there is a concern to be considered. How far a leap is it from using drones for practical applications such as these to using them for surveillance and other law enforcement uses. While it seems highly unlikely there will be an issue with the NDHP, the door to questionable use of drones will be cracked open just a little more than it currently is by other agencies in the future. It’s a slippery slope.

Over the past few years, witness the way technology has been questionably used in the hands of government, such as the data collection system discovered in the previous administration, the still-debated use of traffic cameras and the question of facial recognition technology.

The right to privacy is likely to be one of the major issues the nation faces in the years to come and technology is going to be a component of that discussion.

Minot Daily News recommends strong oversight of this initiative.


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