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Letter: Drones are useful for public safety
April 13, 2013, 05:00 AM Letter

Regarding the story, “Drone wars? Not really” in the April 10 edition of the Daily Journal, it is disturbing to think that people object to the use of drones in our county. Drones could be invaluable to our Sheriff’s Office in San Mateo County, with its lengthy coastline and expansive woodlands. Drones are nothing more than cameras for public safety. There are cameras in parking lots, elevators, on BART, buses and in public buildings (presumably San Mateo City Hall). To argue that drones will infringe on the privacy has no legal basis when air space and public safety are at issue. 

You do not need to be a lawyer to know that air space is public as the U.S. Supreme Court made clear in U.S. v. Causby (1946), noting: It is ancient doctrine that at common law ownership of the land extended to the periphery of the universe Cujus est solum ejus est usque ad coelum. But that doctrine has no place in the modem world. The air is a public highway, as Congress has declared. Were that not true, every transcontinental flight would subject the operator to countless suits. Common sense revolts at the idea. To recognize such private claims to the airspace would clog these highways, seriously interfere with their control and development in the public interest, and transfer into private ownership that which only the public would have a just claim. 

The need for public safety is indisputable. I hope the Sheriff’s Office will not be dissuaded from using drones for public safety. 

Nanci E. Nishimura 

San Mateo 

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