Wednesday, August 1, 2012

What's the Future of Our Skies?

People in Seattle have started the public discussion on drones and should be done about them.

In April it was reported that Seattle police were considering using drones to monitor protester activity.

Subsequently, the ACLU reported that Seattle was considering safeguards against the use of drones. Memmbers of No Drones Washington State have met with City officials, and have opened a channel of communication about what type of transparency and citizen review will be instituted. Your involvement in this process is vital!

In an effort to encourage this discussion, we've posted an example ordinance with language suggested by Drones Watch. We encourage people to give feedback on this, and speak up about the kind of measures they believe we need locally.

Oh, and by the way: it's not just Seattle! Washington State has three bases that have been designated for drone operation by the Department of Defense.

Here's how you can get involved:

(1) Comment on these blog posts, and share them with your friends and encourage them to comment, too!

(2) Contact us at erie1917 [at] or kn0w.drones.wa [at] and tell us what you are prepared to do to help build this movement.

(3) Get into the discussion on Twitter -- tweet us at @NoDronesWA and loop others into the conversation about #drones, as well!


Sample Language for a "No Drones" Ordinance

Below is a sample resolution supplied from Drones Watch.

ORDINANCE of the City (Town, Village, County) of________________________________________

1. United States airspace is the busiest in the world, with up to 87,000 flights per day, including commercial airliners and freight haulers, air taxis and private and military aircraft.

2. Unmanned aerial vehicles (referred to in the remainder of this ordinance as drones) are not now allowed in United States general airspace because of the threat they present to other aircraft. Under the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 the FAA is directed to create regulations that will enable drones to fly throughout US airspace by September 2015.

3. Small drones, 25 pounds or under, are now permitted to fly in general airspace below 400 feet for the use of police and first responders, with FAA permission.

4. Drones have limitations in “vision” compared to the vision of human pilots, do not have the same capability to avoid other aircraft as aircraft piloted by humans, and there has been at least one instance outside the United States of a drone collision with an aircraft with a human pilot on aboard and as well as a near miss. These instances occurred in airspace much less crowded than that of the United States.

5. Drones have at times gotten out of human control, in at least one instance having to be shot down, and drones are susceptible to having control seized electronically by unauthorized operators.

6. Drones have the capability of carrying a variety of weapons, including 12-gauge shotguns, tear gas, rubber bullet guns, bombs and missiles, but drones have significant limitations in identifying specific individuals and groups.

7. Unmanned aerial vehicles have the capability to watch individuals, groups and populations on a 24-hour basis, following and recording their movements for days and weeks in an unprecedented way.

8. Unmanned aerial vehicles have the capability to continuously monitor cellphone and text messaging of individuals, groups and populations.

9. Drones are being developed that will use computerized facial images to target individuals and, once launched, to operate, autonomously, without further human involvement, to locate and kill those individuals.

We find therefore that:

Drones present an unreasonable and unacceptable threat to public safety in the air and to persons and property on the ground in the City of________________________ due to limitations in drone “vision”, capability to avoid other aircraft and adequate control,


Armed drones and surveillance drones present an unreasonable and unacceptable threat to the rights of individual privacy, freedom of association and assembly, equal protection and judicial due process in the City of _______________________.


1. Drones are hereby banned from airspace over the City of__________, including drones in transit. Flying of a drone within the airspace of the City of_____________shall be considered a gross misdemeanor carrying a penalty of up to one year in jail and a fine not to exceed $5,000. More than one offense of flying a drone within said airspace will beconsidered felonies, with jail time and fines based on the number of violations. (Specificson misdemeanor and felony classifications and penalties will vary by locality.)

2. Drones will not be purchased, leased, borrowed, tested or otherwise used by any agency of the City of_____________________.

Washington State to Base Drones?

According to the Department of Defense Report to Congress on Future Unmanned Aircraft Systems Training, Operations, and Sustainability (April 2012), Washington State has three locations that have been designated as potential basing locations for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) [i.e. drones] (p. 8 ff.).

The table below gives information on the types of drones that are proposed for basing at each location.

BASE Predator/Reaper type Shadow/Raven type Other
Yakima Training MQ-1B, MQ-9A RQ-7B
McChord AFB RQ-11B Wasp, Puma
Fort Lewis RQ-11B, RQ-7B

Recently, people in the city of Seattle worked to resist the attempt to use drones locally. What will people in the rest of Washington State react to the prospect of growing drone use?