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Critics speak out as Ontario moves towards drone surveillance on highways

By SmartCoverage Team on November 13th, 2017

The age of the drone is upon us.

Last week it was home insurance that the drone industry was making waves in, this week it's highway surveillance. Thanks to a new agreement between the Ontario government and a number of Greater Toronto Area drone companies, drones could be enforcing highway etiquette from the skies as soon as next year.

The main aspect of highway enforcement that the government has drones in mind for is to ensure order in the high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes. According to Ontario Provincial Police statistics, somewhere between five to 10 per cent of the people currently using the lanes are breaking the rules. Having drones in the vicinity would allow them to be better apprehended—and at a cheaper than normal cost.

"In order to have static cameras, you need to have lots of them. When you have a [flying] platform [....] it reduces the cost dramatically," said Adam Sax, president of Oakville-based drone specialist The Sky Guys.

Sax explained that his company's solution to the static bottleneck is a line of large drones that stretch approximately four metres across. They would have a 1,500 km range and a battery life of 24 hours.

"The feasibility is there [....] in terms of the technology, we're almost there," Sax added.

One person who is certainly not 'almost there' on the idea is Ann Cavoukian, the former information and privacy commissioner of Ontario who spoke out against the government's agreement once it went public.

"It's nobody's business who is driving with whom, at what time of day," she said.

Clearly the onus is now on The Sky Guys and other drone companies to show that their technologies won't sacrifice privacy in the name of effective surveillance. If they are successful, it will only be a short matter of time before we see drones on regular highway patrol.

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