North Dakotans Get Mixed Messages About Privacy From Drones


Late last month I wrote an article for about the development of the drone industry in North Dakota and the privacy concerns surrounding it. For that article I interviewed Rep. Rick Becker, a Bismarck Republican, who saw legislation he proposed last year get steamrolled by concerns that it might hinder North Dakota’s bid to become an FAA drone test site.

I also interviewed Lt. Governor Drew Wrigley who heads the Northern Plains Unmanned Aircraft Systems Authority. Wrigley was quick to tell me that privacy from drones is a valid and important issue, and one he hopes to work with Rep. Becker on:

“It’s real. This is a very serious concern. We should be concerned about this just like we’re concerned with what the NSA is doing with our phones.”

Yet, according to Wrigley, the protections the state already has in place are strong and worthy of emulation by other states. ”I really think North Dakota is going to be a model for a lot of these other test sites,” he said. “I want my community to be proud of what’s going on here.”

He looks forward to Becker’s participation. ”I know he’s passionate about it,” he said. “I think he can help us drive toward making that committee even better.”

But the executive director of the drone authority told the Grand Forks Herald over the weekend that drone privacy legislation shouldn’t be a priority, and that the issue should be left completely to the courts:

Last year, North Dakota legislators shot down putting restrictions on UAS device use.

The move was praised by Bob Becklund, executive director of the Northern Plains Unmanned Systems Authority.

“You shouldn’t let the legislation get out in front of the technology,” he said Tuesday, adding that the courts should be the place where precedents and rules regarding drone misuse and privacy concerns are set.

It seems that Wrigley and Becklund aren’t on the same page about privacy concerns at all.