Schumer taking firmer stance on need for federal regulations for private drones

Nov 25, 2014

After several instances of small drones being spotted near New York City’s largest airport, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) is becoming more concerned about safety and privacy concerns over the unmanned aircraft.

Schumer says some recent near-misses between small drones and commercial aircraft and helicopters in New York City show a need for safety and privacy regulations to be released from the Federal Aviation Administration as soon as possible.

"Drone are an important technology for business, law enforcement, agriculture and more, but the lack of clear rules about small drones, the difference between commercial and a hobby drone, and how and where they can be used, is creating a serious threat to New Yorkers’ safety," he said in a recent statement.

It’s a slight shift for the Democratic senator, who seemed less concerned about those regulations when he was lobbying for upstate New York to win a testing site for the development the nation’s private drone industry.

He said this in September of last year: "There are always privacy concerns and there are discussions about how to deal with them, but I don’t think they’ll get in the way here. We just have to make sure that instead of just looking at the commercial applications, we look at privacy concerns in commercial applications together and work them out." 

Schumer and other officials with upstate’s drone test site, NUAIR, have long acknowledged the privacy concerns, but stress the economic advantage of drones.

"There are privacy concerns, but I think people understand, are beginning to understand, what a huge economic this could be," Schumer said at a press conference raising the profile of NUAIR's bid for a drone test site. It was awarded one a few months later.

With the FAA idling when it comes to releasing rules for drone use, many civilians are taking to the skies with small, mail-order or home-made drones and possibly violating federal laws. 

Schumer says that while civilian drones have beneficial uses they can pose a hazard to other aircraft or pedestrians. He also says the devices can be used to violate a person's privacy.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.