Drone Industry Invokes Boston Bombings in PR Pitch

Joe Schoffstall | April 22, 2013 | 11:46am EDT
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In the wake of the Boston bombings, the president of the largest Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) organization wasted no time in pushing for drones - as some predicted those in the industry would.

Michael Toscano, president of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, said UASs could have provided critical situational awareness for first responders and law enforcement in Boston.

"UAS could be an important tool in the tool kit for first responders in the event of an emergency," he assured US News and World Report. "Whether it is in response to a natural disaster or a tragedy like we saw in Boston, UAS can be quickly deployed to provide first responders with critical situational awareness in areas too dangerous or difficult for manned aircraft to reach. Our industry is working to develop technologies to provide first responders with the best tools possible to do their jobs safely as they work to protect our communities."

This came as no surprise to those worried about the loss of civil liberties and privacy concerns with the use of drones.

Shahid Buttar, the Executive Director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, predicted this type of action immediately following the bombing. He told Wisconsin Reporter it was only a matter of time before someone used the event to call for drones to help in these types of situations.

"I do fear the events in Boston, that someone will say, 'If we would have had a drone over the finish line we would be able to track back the footage and see who it was. It will not surprise me when it happens," Buttar said hours after the tragedy.

As previously reported, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) predicts that 10,000 drones could be in the skies by 2020. For now, Congress has asked the FAA to write regulations on civil operation of small unmanned aircraft systems in the national airspace and submit them by 2015.

The FAA has issued 1,428 licenses to police, universities, and federal agencies since 2007- a number far higher than previously known. Of these, 327 are still listed as active. It is estimated $94 billion will be spent over the course of 10 years for Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

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