| PARIS, June 19
PARIS, June 19 U.S. aerospace companies, keen to
benefit from billions of dollars in possible future orders for
civilian drones, are mobilizing to assuage public concerns about
privacy and safety.
The Aerospace Industries Association, the U.S. industry's
biggest lobbying group, released a new poll on Wednesday at the
Paris Airshow, which showed that 54 percent of Americans favor
use of drones for civilian purposes, including border patrol,
weather prediction and disaster response.
Marion Blakey, former administrator of the Federal Aviation
Administration, and AIA's chief executive, said she was
heartened by the poll, conducted by the Christian Science
Monitor newspaper, but her industry needed to do a better job
dispelling misperceptions about drones.
"We feel like there's been too much rhetoric about privacy
concerns and things that aren't relevant to domestic use of
unmanned aerial systems," Blakey told Reuters. "Nobody's talking
about using militarized drones in U.S. civil airspace."
The U.S. government has used unmanned planes in the wars in
Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as, for targeted attacks of
suspected terrorists in Pakistan and Yemen.
Federal Bureau of Investigations Director Robert Mueller
testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday
that the FBI uses drones for surveillance on U.S. soil.
Many states and industry officials favor using drones for
civilian purposes, but hurdles including regulatory approval and
public skepticism remain.
Blakey said potential benefits were obscured by
misperceptions of how remotely piloted planes would be used in
the United States. AIA said the worldwide market for such
unmanned planes would exceed $89 billion over the next decade.
She said it was important to explain what drones, or
unmanned aerial systems (UAS), could or could not do, although
she conceded that recent revelations of widespread domestic
surveillance by the NSA could be "fogging" the issue.
"Surveillance by UAS will never be collecting anything like
the kind of data that people are concerned about," she said.
"That's not what you use them for."
The industry group said drones would provide benefits in:
border protection, fighting wildfires, law enforcement
surveillance, and search and rescue operations.
Such systems are already in use elsewhere helping to monitor
flooding in the Czech Republic and contributing to wildlife
conservation efforts in South Africa.
Concerns about use of drones for deadly strikes overseas and
a growing mistrust of the federal government have prompted some
U.S. towns and states to pass measures banning or limiting the
use of unmanned aircraft, said Shahid Buttar, executive director
of Bill of Rights Defense Committee, a non-profit watchdog
Charlottesville, Virginia passed a measure imposing a
two-year moratorium on the use of drones, he said, adding other
measures restricting their use have also been passed in Idaho,
Texas and California.
Chris Raymond, head of business development for Boeing Co's
defense division, cautioned against overstating privacy
concerns, noting that 37 U.S. states had applied to host one of
six unmanned aerial vehicle ranges to be set up by the FAA.
"I think (acceptance) will come over time," Raymond told
Reuters at the air show. "It is a policy issue with a lot of
emotion, and education has to occur on both sides of the issue."