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Expecting Drones in Irish Skies

DroneBECAUSE THEY'RE RELATIVELY INEXPENSIVE, I expect to see drones overhead hotspots in Ireland. They're excess to military war zones and plenty of new models have evolved.

You can operate a radio-controlled plane with impunity in Ireland and the only concern most people have with unmanned drones is their careless operations over built-up areas. But there's a bigger issue and it revolves around the massive surveillance stash that a covey of drones could bring to the State.

In the USA, the Electronic Frontier Foundation is trying to see who has requested permission to fly drones. The ACLU recently issued a report on drones and privacy. There is very little in American privacy law that would prohibit drone surveillance.

Drone surveillance is not a talking point in Ireland but you might expect to hear a spirited public outcry, similar to the one that accompanied Google's Street View cars.

On the other hand, dozens of rural garda stations are closing down across Ireland and the easy availability of Garda Drones dramatically alters the reach of thinly spread law enforcement in Ireland.

Drones can follow packs of boy racers as they mark the landscape with donuts and then orbit over homes where the perps park. The quiet airborne drones have a much less obvious noise footprint than some of those who awaken me after midnight on Saturday and Sunday.

Like drug dogs, drones are merely tools of the law enforcement trade. Give them thermal or chemical sensors and the number of drug stashes would multiply. No garda has to rush to the scene unless the drone sends a positive finding.

If I was making a long bet in terms of what will be overhead Irish homes in 2020, I'd put money on a fleet of drones, carefully deployed in community best interest.

Ryan Calo -- "Drones, Dogs and the Future of Privacy" in Wired, March 8, 2012.


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