Whether drones arrive to help, or spy, has a lot to do with how their presence is explained, reports GovTech.com. Public perception is an important element in developing drone technology, says Charles L. Werner of DRONERESPONDERS. According to Werner, public safety organizations would be wise to adopt guidelines to help people accept and understand the drones they see in operation. The most important principle, he says, is community engagement and transparency.
“The number one thing that needs to be done is very extensive and transparent engagement with the community,” Werner said. “They have to be well informed of how the drone is going to be used and when it’s going to be used. The public has the right to look at what’s being done with the drone at any time that they wish.”
This type of proactive involvement has proven to work well in Chula Vista, California, a community that employs a large drone workforce. “We’re in the media all the time,” said Lt. Don Redmond. “Everything we do, we announce upfront so there’s no shock when it happens. … There should be no surprises.” Redmond added that residents have been very supportive of the drones when their appearance is explained and their use is judicious.
Acceptance of drones overhead is a matter of public trust. A drone ferrying medical supplies is not likely to cause the sort of outcry that a drone flying over a crowd of people would generate.
Matthew Guariglia, a policy analyst for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, commented on the types of negative reactions that result from irresponsible drone usage. “I think it [drone technology] poses quite a threat to civil liberties,” he said. “As we know with police, once they get approval to use a piece of surveillance for one reason, it’s not long before it becomes the new favorite toy.” As an example of poor drone decision making, Guariglia referenced another police department’s deployment of drones investigating reports of inappropriate nudity. “What did the drone contribute to that scenario that an officer walking up and down the beach could have just as easily?”
Keeping Werner’s 5C’s of drone conduct can help set guidelines for health drone involvement:
- Community Engagement and Transparency
- Civil Liberties and Privacy Protection
- Common Operating Procedures
- Clear Oversight and Accountability