You knew this would eventually happen, right? As of now, drone use in public air space is restricted to the government (especially military and law enforcement) and higher education installations for research purposes (i.e. public universities). But the push is on to open drone use to the public for any private citizen to use in a majority of U.S. air space.
Congress permitted the FAA to come up with regulations to integrate unmanned aircraft “into the national airspace system” by the end of 2015. The FAA is now working on establishing six test sites nationwide to fly the aerial drones and manned aircraft simultaneously to see how one will affect the other regarding safety. The safety concerns they are focusing on deal with: (a) how can drones avoid collisions with manned aircraft?, and (b) what fail-safes can be installed in unmanned aircraft to ensure they don’t hurt people when contact is lost with their controllers?
These concerns would cover safe distances between manned and unmanned aircraft and how to prevent hackers or frequency interference from cutting off controllers from their drones. But no matter how many regulations they come up with, criminals and/or rogue government entities will find ways to hack into the drones electronically or physically to re-purpose them to violate other people’s rights, including their privacy rights. So it will be up to law abiding citizens to protect themselves with anti-drone technologies and maybe an accurate rocket or firearm to shoot them down when the drones present an unjustifiable threat.
Source: Liz Goodwin. Drones to enter public skies in 2015: Will it be safe? Yahoo! News. Friday, May 31, 2013. (Note: this headline is somewhat misleading since aerial drones are already in use by law enforcement in “public skies.”)