Drone Hearing Press Release: Community calls for a drone-free Alameda County

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, Feb 12, 2013

Contacts: Nadia Kayyali (510) 207-1040
Neil Satterlund (650) 714-4983
Spanish Language Contact: Micah Clatterbaugh (510) 331-7890

Alameda County Board of Supervisors Public Protection Committee
Thursday, February 14, 2013
Press Conference: 12:00 pm, 1221 Oak Street, Plaza
Hearing: 1:00pm, 1221 Oak Street, Board Chambers, Room 512, 5th Floor

Community calls for a drone-free Alameda County

Alameda County Against Drones (ACAD), a grassroots community organization that formed to oppose Sheriff Ahern’s push to buy a surveillance drone, will attend the Alameda County Public Protection Committee’s drone hearing on February 14th. The Sheriff is understating drones’ threat to privacy and security, while overstating the usefulness of drone technology to pursue fleeing suspects and assist in disaster response. Alameda County does not need drones intruding on its privacy or its pocketbook.

Drones invade privacy. Small drones, of the type sought by Sheriff Ahern, can be equipped with live, high-definition video, LIDAR imaging, license plate readers, facial recognition, and other surveillance technologies. The sheriff seeks an infrared-equipped drone that can see through cover. His proposed policy offers token limitations on drone use, but swallows this rule with exceptions: drones are to be flown over any “crime scene” or in support of “fire prevention” efforts, potentially expanding their jurisdiction to political demonstrations, or anything flammable.

Drones are unsafe. They suffer far more accidents than other aircraft– Customs and Border Protection has reported that its drones crash seven times as often as the civil aviation average.  Drone operators frequently lose control due to data link interruptions, which can happen accidentally or under the influence of a hacker using off-the-shelf technology.

Drones won’t help Alameda County. Small drones can only be flown during the day, in near-perfect weather, below 400 feet, and within the operator’s line of sight. These limitations will render a drone almost useless for the disaster-response and high speed chase scenarios being used to sell the proposal. The sheriff also understates costs: the sheriff’s DHS grant will not fully pay for the drone, much less the hiring and training of pilots, liability for anyone injured in a drone crash, or other future costs.

Under mounting public pressure, the Board of Supervisors agreed to hold a public hearing before becoming the first county in California to purchase a drone. ACAD will voice its concerns at the hearing, alongside the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The public and press are urged to do likewise. For more information, see https://nomby.wordpress.com/

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