Study urges privacy policy for potentially ‘intrusive’ unmanned drones

A small Draganflyer X6 drone is photographed during a test flight in Mesa County, Colo.,in a Jan.8, 2009 file photo. There must be clear policies about the sort of personal information flying drones are allowed to collect before Canadian police and others begin using them on a large scale, warns a new study released to The Canadian Press. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP Photo/Mesa County Sheriff's Unmanned Operations Team)There must be clear policies about the sort of personal information flying drones are allowed to collect before Canadian police and others begin using them on a large scale, warns a new study.

The groundbreaking research report on drones — unmanned eyes in the sky — urges law enforcement agencies, governments and privacy commissioners to work together to ensure civil liberties are respected as more of the miniature craft take to the air.

It says unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, can offer potentially significant cost savings for police and could be useful for responding to emergencies or performing mundane chores.

However, the “potential for intrusive and massive surveillance” means public discussion is needed to reassure Canadians they will not be arbitrarily spied upon, the study concludes.

Ultimately, the federal government “lacks a clear policy” on the devices, it adds.

A copy of the study, to be released next week, was made available to The Canadian Press by authors Christopher Parsons and Adam Molnar of Block G Privacy and Security Consulting. They sifted through academic articles, court rulings and revealing Access to Information documents, uncovering many unanswered questions about the budding technology along the way.

The devices, which range in size from a bird to a small plane, are usually outfitted with cameras but can also carry thermal imaging devices, licence plate readers and laser radar. They can be potent military weapons and, in peacetime, are used for everything from filming movie scenes and detecting radiation to monitoring crowds and photographing accident scenes.

In Canada, UAVs are regulated by Transport Canada as aircraft under the Canadian Aviation Regulations.

The RCMP is eyeing creation of a national fleet of small helicopter-like drones with cameras to help investigate offences, reconstruct traffic accidents, and assist with search-and-rescue.

The Mounties have said they are not being used for general surveillance of people or vehicles.

The study notes keen interest from Canadian police forces, but says law enforcement agencies have not “sought feedback from the public on how UAVs should or should not be adopted as a tool to serve the public interest.”

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EION Delivers Secure High-Bandwidth Communication Links for UAVs – System Demonstrated For Canadian Forces

October 28, 2013 – EION Wireless, a global manufacturer of licensed and unlicensed broadband wireless access and backhaul products headquartered in Ottawa is pleased to announce that it will be presenting its Wireless Surveillance Support Solution at the 2013 CADSI SecureTech conference and tradeshow at the Ottawa Convention Centre on October 29 & 30. The EION StarAccess 2000 provides an extended three-dimensional WiFi “hot-spot” engineered for high reliability communications with small unmanned aerial vehicles (micro UAVs) in flight and other wireless security devices such as robots for handling suspicious packages, wide area multilateralization (WAM) systems for aircraft detection and fixed and mobile video cameras. The EION Wireless Surveillance Support Solution is ideal for real-time high definition video transfer on campus and at altitudes up to 400 feet.

High sensitivity receivers on the StarAccess 2000 support line-of-sight communications in excess of three kilometers providing service coverage of more than fourteen square kilometres. The StarAccess 2000 can be quickly deployed in the field providing interconnectivity to multiple devices or can be integrated into the fixed wireless communications coverage of critical or sensitive infrastructure. Line-of-sight backhaul from the “hot-spot” to broadband communications systems can be provided through EION’s 5.x GHz unlicensed StarPlus 5300 or on licensed frequencies using the Star4G mobility platform. All EION 5000 level systems are provided with ruggedized IP67 enclosures for harsh outdoor environments and AES encryption for secure data transfer.

The EION Surveillance Support Solution was demonstrated on October 4 at the Canadian Forces Connaught Ranges in Ottawa, Canada in association with the “Operation Foundation Thunder” fund raising event to support military families. The technology collaboration showcased the capabilities of several Ottawa region firms involved in the emerging micro UAV aerial surveillance market. The demonstration included a microUAV provided by Zariba Security ( of Ottawa. Video and high resolution image data was managed using data aggregation and analysis tools developed and provided by FocalRecon ( of Ottawa. Real-time UAV video, data and voice (radio & telephone) was shared across multiple communications protocols and emergency responder agencies in Canada and the USA using Mutualink’s Interoperable Response And Preparedness Platform (I.R.A.P.P.) jointly provided by Inter-Op Canada of Montréal and Valley Associates of Ottawa. The demonstration was organized and coordinated by Information Systems Architects and Tri-Wolf Security.

The microUAV flew twenty-five minute missions under guided and automatic control at a maximum height of 400 feet and a maximum range of 2 kilometres capturing and relaying video and still image data of people, structures and terrain from a variety of elevations. The microUAV has a number of advanced navigation features that allowed it to be flown with minimal instruction by various Canadian Forces, police and civilian guests.

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A-flockalypse Now: Canadians order DRONE strikes on nuisance geese

Canada’s capital has found a novel way to rid a popular beach of geese that dirty the waters with their droppings – drone strikes.

The hexacopter – a 26in-wide remote-controlled aircraft adapted for pest control – takes off each dawn to chase away birds sullying the Ottawa River near Petrie Island park on the city’s east side.

‘It’s been really effective,’ city councillor Bob Monette told AFP.

I love the smell of goose faeces in the morning: But it does cause E. coli, which is why Ottawa authorities are employing this drone to chase away the geese infesting one popular beach on the city's east side
He said the city has tried using trained dogs, noise blasts, animal decoys and countless other means to try to shoo the geese away, but nothing worked.

City staff a few years ago even tried spraying a foul-smelling chemical but the geese eventually got used to the smell.

Though majestic and beautiful birds, Canada geese drop a lot of dung that raises E. coli levels in the river, creating a health hazard for bathers.

Last year, the Petrie Island beach had to be closed for 13 days.

Since deploying the drones in July, the number of geese in the area has dropped from hundreds to a few dozen, and the beach has been not been shut once, said Mr Monette.

The owner and operator of the hexacopter, Steve Wambolt, said his novel business started by chance.

The former IT worker was pitching aerial photography services to Monette when the city councillor pressed him about other possible uses for the drone.

‘I didn’t know anything about geese before, and now … I’m an expert,’ Mr Wambolt said.

For example, he said, geese don’t like black, silver or bright orange colors – similar to predators or hunters’ vests.

So to be sure in tests that the geese were fleeing the hexacopter and not its operator, he discarded the orange safety vest.

What Wambolt learned – mostly by researching online – he incorporated into the redesign of his hexacopter, which took about two weeks.

Its cameras were removed and speakers were added to play the sounds of predators as it flies low accross the beach.

The city even obtained a special ‘scare permit’ from wildlife authorities to bother the protected birds.

And then the program took off.

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