Drones and Your Privacy

Dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science at UTB, Dr. Juan Iglesias

Technology has been advancing at a fast pace.

First, was the "Zack Morris brick cell phone" done away with, and replaced by smart phones.

Then scenes from Star Trek where characters talked to each other through computer screens, all of a sudden aren't so out of this world thanks to technology like Skype.

So could a scene from "The Jetson's," be the next breakthrough technological advance in our lifetime?

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, certainly thinks so.

His company is already testing drones as a way to deliver Amazon packages right to your door.

"We like to pioneer, we like to explore, we like to go down dark alleys and see what's on the other side," said Bezos in a recent CBS interview.

Drone researcher and Texas A&M Corpus Christi Engineering Professor, Dr. David Bridges, said Bezos' idea is way ahead of the game - or perhaps one of the greatest marketing stunts.

It's also bringing national attention to the subject of drones.

"The Amazon commercial - that's kind of cute," Bridges said. "But what they didn't show, was how they are going to keep the Amazon helicopter from colliding with the Domino's helicopter bringing the pizza to your house, and the Target helicopter bringing your cereal. That's the integration issue (and) that's the real purpose for these test sites."

Action 4 paid a visit to one of six federally designated testing sites, located just 30 miles north of the Rio Grande Valley.

For the next six months, Bridges' team of researchers will test a $200,000, fiber glass, 65-pound, 13-foot-wingspan drone - or as they prefer to call it, an unmanned aerial vehicle.

"(It has) a Honda, 5-horse-power engine," a researcher said.

The objective?

"(To) put Texas on the map in terms of this particular technology," said Dean of College of Science and Engineering at Texas A&M Corpus Christi, Frank Pezold.

But as this as technology evolves, privacy concerns continue to emerge.

Drone Contractor John Huguley said skeptics think, "these things are going to come look in my window, they're going to be listening to what I do, they're going to be seeing what I do, and I'm going to get in trouble."

In reality, Huguley said, it would be difficult for someone to use a drone for spying through your window.

He adds the benefits of a drone's capability outweigh the negative since they can be used for "the floods, the fires, the Hurricane Katrina's, the Hurricane Sandy in the east coast."

Dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Texas at Brownsville, Dr. Juan Iglesias understands the growing privacy concerns, but said eyes are already everywhere.

"You like it or not, there are cameras all over the place," Iglesias said.

But Iglesias adds the U.S. government must tread lightly when it comes to drones, and putting at risk a society run by the people.

"This can lead to a totalitarian kind of system where everything is being controlled, if this kind of technology, of course, goes to the wrong hands," Iglesias said.

Overall, Iglesias said, drone technology is inevitable, and education about drones is key.

"It will be there, (whether) we like it or not," Iglesias said. "We just have to be prepared to make sure we use the technology in the correct way."

"We can't walk away from this technology, it's going to get us just like cell phones did," adds Pezold.

The Texas A&M Corpus Christi testing site is expected to have an $8 billion impact on the state's economy.

Currently, local law enforcement is allowed to use drones, but federal agencies are the only ones in the Valley using drones right now.