Aerial Drones Represent Next Frontier Of American Surveillance
The Washington Post reports that the Texas Department of Public Safety became the first American police agency to launch a drone as part of an operation, and that the FAA is working to make it easier for other agencies to follow suit:
"By 2013, the FAA expects to have formulated new rules that would allow police across the country to routinely fly lightweight, unarmed drones up to 400 feet above the ground - high enough for them to be largely invisible eyes in the sky."
The U.S. military already uses similar technology in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, scanning entire towns with one drone. The Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security have already done similar things on American soil, but the Texas case is a landmark:
"Some police officials, as well as the manufacturers of unmanned aerial systems, have been clamoring for the FAA to allow their rapid deployment by law enforcement. They tout the technology as a tactical game-changer in scenarios such as hostage situations and high-speed chases."
The ACLU has expressed concern that this kind of technology will open the door for a more Big Brotherish society. The British, for their part, are extremely keen to adopt drones in anticipation of the 2012 Olympic Games.
The Miami-Dade Police Department purchased a drone earlier this month, demonstrating that the trend is not just theoretical. Advocates for unmanned aircraft herald drones as a cheaper, more effective alternative to helicopters (though they tend to crash much more often).
The LAPD, known for its extensive use of choppers, has been experimenting with drones for several years. Now, it appears, we are a step closer to seeing them used on people.