Cryptome – Can drone flight paths be private?

Will Drones Assassinate When Pigs Fly?

Date: Sun, 21 Apr 2013 22:49:37 -0500
From: Gregory Foster
To: drone-list[at]
Subject: [drone-list] Can drone flight paths be private?

WSJ (Apr 18) – “Why Jet Owners Don’t Want to be Tracked”:

Earlier this week, while some drone pundits were seizing the moment to advocate for law enforcement access to drone technology, this article was also being passed around. Although the article is full of examples of corporations that allege security threats to their employees, the most often re-cited concern was an assassination plot, “a retaliatory act meant to dissuade Lockheed Martin from producing drone weaponry.”

The article is sourced from a 2011 FOIA request to the FAA, so the timing of the article’s release and promotion struck me as trying to generate sympathy for the woes endured by drone manufacturers.

The intent of Rupert Murdoch’s WSJ aside, the other examples of corporate insecurity in this article warrant reading. From big pharma, to the fossil-fuel energy giants, to Disney – they’re all concerned (I’m sure quite reasonably) that there are people out there who are quite angry with them.

I also highlight this article because of discussions that circulated on this list a few months ago concerning just how the FAA intends to track tens of thousands of private and public drones in American skies – and just how much transparency the public can expect to receive into that flight path information. This article confirms that the FAA does maintain exceptions to disclosure of flight path information for privately owned jets, and all the owner has to do is fill out what sounds like a very simple form. The FAA does not question the legitimacy of any request, just makes sure the form is filled out. I don’t see why we should expect that policy to change for privately owned drones.

Here’s the question I have: can the FAA regulate my ability to see, with my own eyes (or a camera, or a radio receiver), what is in the sky? I don’t think so.

And my follow up question: can the FAA regulate my ability to tell someone else, with my own voice (or an email, or a database), what I saw in the sky?

If not, I think we should crowdsource observed and correlated flight paths.

After all, communities are being asked to assume the costs of operating 149 air-traffic control towers by June 15, or they will be shut down.

Those costs run to the tune of $30-40M and the jobs of 1,000 air-traffic controllers.

Seems like a good opportunity to do things differently.


Gregory Foster || gfoster[at]

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From: “Al Mac Wow”
To: “‘drone-list'”
Date: Mon, 22 Apr 2013 02:41:19 -0500
Cc: ‘Bob Speth’
Subject: Re: [drone-list] Can drone flight paths be private?

> When is it reasonable for a drone flight path to be kept confidential?

The only time drones should be carrying passengers is when they are used as air ambulances to transport victims to hospital, more rapidly than ground transportation is capable of.

Such vehicles should be marked on the bottom with a red cross, and/or medical caduceus, so it is crystal clear to everyone what their function is.

Outside the USA, drones are already being used to transport medical supplies to hard to reach places, in support of disaster recovery.

> Can the FAA regulate my ability to see, with my own eyes (or a camera, or a radio receiver), what is in the sky? I don’t think so.

The military has stealth drones. This means they are microscopic on radar. Some of them look like the same color as clouds, and blue sky. I know that technology exists to have something change color, as the background changes, adaptive camouflage. I do not know if that has been incorporated into drones, how expensively prohibitive it might be.

I do not know if it is legal for big corporations to have private stealth jets. If there is no regulation against it, I guess it is.

With stealth there is a risk of collision between such aircraft controlled by different interests, and there have already been several near misses.

> Can the FAA regulate my ability to tell someone else, with my own voice (or an email, or a database, or blog), what I saw in the sky?

Currently in some US states, if we are driving and we see a police radar trap for motorists traveling at speeds in excess of posted limits, and we communicate this info to motorists who have not yet driven into the trap, this action is in violation of the law.

Making something illegal does not put a stop to the activity.

Al Mac (


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