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NTIA Seeks Comment on Process for Developing Best Practices for Commercial and Private Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems

March 04, 2015
News Media Contact
Juliana Gruenwald

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) today announced it is seeking comment on a new multistakeholder process aimed at developing privacy best practices for the commercial and private use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). The public is invited to submit suggestions concerning the structure of the multistakeholder engagement and the substantive issues stakeholders will discuss. NTIA expects to convene the first public meeting within 90 days from the publication of the Request for Comment (RFC).

In a Presidential Memorandum released February 15, the White House called on NTIA to convene stakeholders to develop best practices that would enhance privacy, accountability and transparency related to the commercial use of UAS in the National Airspace System.

“UAS have the potential to offer benefits in fields as diverse as urban infrastructure management, farming and disaster response,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling. “This multistakeholder process aims to address privacy concerns with some potential uses of UAS while ensuring the United States maintains its leadership and promotes innovation in this growing industry.”

UAS hold the potential to support services that are prohibitively expensive, dangerous or impossible for manned aircraft to perform, such as monitoring critical infrastructure, searching for missing persons during severe weather or delivering individual packages. Yet, the technology also raises privacy, accountability and transparency concerns. The Memorandum calls on NTIA to bring industry, civil society, technical experts, academics and other stakeholders together to craft best practices that mitigate potential privacy risks, while at the same time promoting growth and innovation. This process also is aimed at ensuring that organizations are accountable for adhering to practices and are transparent concerning UAS operations.

In the RFC, NTIA is seeking input on questions that could frame the multistakeholder discussions, including:

  • Do some UAS-enabled commercial services raise unique or heightened privacy issues?
  • What specific best practices would mitigate the most pressing privacy challenges while supporting innovation?
  • What information should commercial UAS operators make public?
  • How can UAS operators ensure that oversight procedures for commercial and private UAS operation comply with relevant policies and best practices? 
  • Should discussions be divided to address the needs of different aircraft sizes or commercial uses?

Those seeking to provide input on the RFC will have 45 days from the date it is published in the Federal Register to submit comments to NTIA.

NTIA has an established track record of promoting the multistakeholder approach to policy development both internationally and domestically. Pursuant to President Obama’s 2012 privacy blueprint, NTIA has convened stakeholders to develop privacy codes of conduct for mobile apps and commercial uses of facial recognition technology.

About NTIA

NTIA, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is the Executive Branch agency that advises the President on telecommunications and information policy issues. NTIA’s programs and policy making focus largely on expanding broadband Internet access and adoption in America, expanding the use of spectrum by all users, and ensuring that the Internet remains an engine for continued innovation and economic growth.