Small Unmanned Aerial Systems and Privacy

  • Tony H. Grubesic
  • Jake R. Nelson


A significant advantage of sUAS technology is its ability to collect high-resolution data at a large scale, including individual streets, yards, and houses. Recent advances in sUAS technology, including decreasing size, increased functionality, and improved affordability, mean that both researchers and practitioners can collect these data quickly and without a major coordination of people and resources. Given the relative ease of such efforts and the resolution of data that can be acquired, there are increasing concerns that both recreational and professional operators can collect information from locations that might be considered private. For some bystanders, private space may be defined by porches and decks with privacy screens. For others, a backyard fence or wall may represent private space. Whatever the definition, privacy is central to the debate on the fair and equitable use of sUAS technology in urban areas. Moreover, it is one of the major factors in local decisions to regulate where and how sUAS are used. The purpose of this chapter is to discuss the concept of privacy in relation to sUAS technology and detail the pragmatic implications of privacy-related restrictions for drone operation. This chapter concludes with a brief overview of sUAS ethics and the increased need for local awareness and cultural sensitivity when operating sUAS.


Privacy Ethics Closed circuit television Private property Recreation Hellfire 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tony H. Grubesic
    • 1
  • Jake R. Nelson
    • 1
  1. 1.Geoinformatics and Policy Analytics Lab (GPAL), School of InformationUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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