Local company helping to create drone technology

Posted at: 07/22/2013 5:27 PM
Updated at: 07/25/2013 10:37 AM
By: Amanda Ciavarri

Could your privacy be at risk because of technology that's being used in the skies above? Domestic drones have stirred debate between your safety and the invasion of your privacy.

Drones are remote controlled planes that you mostly hear about being used by the military for video surveillance or as weapons. News10NBC has learned that a local company is helping to create the technology used in these planes. We wanted to know more about how they're being used now and how they could be used in the future.

Current uses:
The drones would have cameras -- no weapons. SkyOp in Canandaigua is the company that is creating the software for drones. They are also looking into new ways they can be marketed.

SkyOp is focusing on public safety because right now, other than the military, it’s only legal for police and fire departments to use drones. Brian Pitre, co-founder of SkyOp told News10NBC, there are strict regulations for those agencies.

Future uses:
The FAA’s restrictions on drones are expected to be lifted in 2015. That means they would then be allowed for commercial use.

Experts say they could be used in all kinds of areas. For example, this kind of photography could benefit areas in engineering, like bridge inspections, or the housing market with real estate videos.

Some people fear even with public safety departments using this technology, it means big brother is watching. We took that question to a former police officer and former director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. He sees both sides.

Gary Pudup said, “It would benefit police that have to respond to a hostage situation, active gun man, maybe an act of terrorism. These drones can get in with cameras and look at a situation where an officer can not go forward and see. There is probably a lot of good out of that. The thing we have to be wary of as citizens in our county is when it is used for the surveillance aspect of that. This is no longer going to be having a police officer on the street corner who sees illegal activity. This is now somebody sitting behind a camera -- is it a police officer or civilian? Is the person operating the camera a police officer or civilian when the camera is in the air? Is it just hovering or and looking at spaces, or is it able to look inside you bedroom?”

Police and fire agencies have an exemption and they can use these drones. Pitre says he has spoke with the Ontario County Sheriff’s Office about using them and also made a presentation to the New York Sheriff's Association.

We checked with State Police but they would not comment about using them. The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and Rochester Police Department say they do not have any plans of using this technology.