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Mon, Apr 01, 2013

ACLU Applies For UAV Testing Authority

'Who's Watching The Watchers? We Are'

ANN April 1 Special Coverage

Buried deep on the FAA's list of organizations that have applied for the authorization to evaluate UAVs is a surprising candidate ... the ACLU. The civil liberties group has requested permission to fly a variety of small drones in test scenarios from an undisclosed location.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said he would not comment on any individual group that has requested the evaluation authority. "All candidates will be assessed on their merits," Huerta said. "We want a broad spectrum of organizations involved so that we can truly know how the aircraft will be used in nearly any given scenario."

A series of internal ACLU memos forwarded to ANN indicates that the organization wants to give those who may jeopardize privacy a taste of their own medicine. "Who better to watch the watchers?" one organization official said in pitching the idea to the ACLU board. "They may not be so quick to fly those things over people's homes and businesses if they think there may be a clandestine airborne camera pointing at them. It's a classic example of the best defense being a good offence."

The House UAV caucus said in a news release that it would be inappropriate to give the authorization to the organization. "They can't have it both ways," the caucus said. "Either your for us or against us. If they're flying them, we'd better not see any frivolous lawsuits arising from their use."

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has asked that the application period be re-opened so that they can also be included on the list. "We didn't think about it ... but what a great idea," a representative said. "And besides, outside that whole privacy thing ... they're really pretty cool."

FMI: www.aclu.org, www.epic.org, www.faa.gov

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