Back in May, I wrote about the work the FAA is doing to clear the use of unmanned spy planes (drones) by law enforcement officials across the country. These planes will be used for surveillance within our own borders. Now it appears that the use of these drones is much more widespread than earlier believed.
In my May article, I pointed out what the FAA is doing:
According to the reauthorization bill, public safety agency (police and other first responders) can “operate unmanned aircraft weighing 4.4 pounds or less.” The guidelines for such usage are as follows: “these UAS must be flown within the line of sight of the operator, less than 400 feet above the ground, during daylight conditions, inside Class G (uncontrolled) airspace and more than five miles from any airport or other location with aviation activities.” Thus, a typical neighborhood would certainly fall under the areas of allowed surveillance.
Now look at what has been uncovered by the Daily Mail. According to their report, through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, “federal authorities have been forced to reveal” that there are “at least 63 active drone sites around the U.S.”
The authority revealed the information after a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by Electronic Frontier Foundation. Its website hosts an interactive map that allows the user to zoom in to the area around where they live to see if any sites are nearby. However, the FAA is yet to reveal what kinds of drones might be based at any of these locations. The agency says it will release this data later.
Most of the drones are likely to be small craft, such as the Draganflyer X8, which can carry a payload of only 2.2lb.
What does this mean for you and me? Probably not much, but the point is that the federal government is continuing to ease restrictions and create guidelines for the expanded use of drones on American soil. The regulations clearly allow drones to be flown over cities and towns… not just patrolling along the border.
How much privacy is to be sacrificed in the name of security? That doesn’t seem to be a debate that anyone is concerned about on Capitol Hill.