Maybe she was only being naive or maybe it was just a provocation. Or maybe her question simply expressed a valid, legitimate concern. The oncoming spread of commercial drones throughout America’s skies raises many questions — and she had one in particular for her colleagues on the U.S. Senate committee holding hearings on the subject: Will they also be used in divorce cases?
Kelly Ayotte is a Republican and she is concerned about Americans’ privacy. The drone invasion threatens to put Americans’ privacy even more at risk, after already being badly weakened by the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance. Only in this case, the drone wouldn’t be working for the federal government but rather for one half of a married couple who wants to find out whether the other half is having an affair. “The nature of what you could see with a drone versus a private detective … is so much greater,” said Ayotte, already famous for her support of the right to bear arms. Given what will be moving through American skies very soon, her statement may be a prediction rather than a provocation. Never mind paparazzi! This would be an infallible following eye.
Military Drones and Commercial Drones
The goal is 2015, but more realistically the green light for commercial drones will come in 2017. Administrator Michael Huerta of the Federal Aviation Administration predicts that there could be 8,000 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or UAVs in the skies above American heads before that time. Not just those bringing Amazon packages, as Jeff Bezos has already announced, but many others that will be used for a variety of functions: commercial, meteorological, security and surveillance (warning: remember Ayotte’s words), and environmental and territorial monitoring. Matternet, for example, is working on a drone able to carry food and supplies to rural areas. Other businesses are exploring the use of UAVs to transport photographic and camera equipment in order to trail, for instance, Hollywood stars (warning: remember Ayotte’s words.)
There are already many different kinds of drones in use in the United States. For the most part, they are being used by government agencies for surveillance: monitoring the lengthy Mexican border in order to stop illegal immigration and trafficking, or for specific controls in special police operations. Others are military drones used by the CIA and the Pentagon in the fight against Islamic terrorism. Those are the ones that struck and killed in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. Everyone knows about that. The new frontier of the “civilian drone” would see drones becoming an indispensable tool for business ... and for private surveillance. From this point of view, the question Sen. Kelly Ayotte posed before the Capitol Hill committee examining drone use is not so much a provocation as a prediction: Couldn’t they also be used in divorce cases?