People often joke of the “black helicopter” crowd… those who believe the government is watching and will take you away if you get out of line. Guess what? It might not be so far-fetched after all, at least the “government is watching you” part. The Federal Aviation Administration is moving to bring drone surveillance to a neighborhood near you. Is this one more layer of public safety or another step toward government control?

In a statement on the FAA web site, the agency ” has been working to ensure the safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in the National Airspace System (NAS).

Already, the agency has achieved the first unmanned aircraft systems milestone included in the 2012 FAA reauthorization – streamlining the process for public agencies to safely fly UAS in the nation’s airspace.

Federal, state and local government entities must obtain an FAA Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) before flying UAS in the NAS. Now, under the FAA Reauthorization bill, the agency must to find a way to expedite that COA process within 90 days of enactment, which is May 14, 2012.

Here’s more… 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.

Here’s what the Fox News panel had to say about these actions:

Is this a case of invasion of privacy? What about Charles Krauthammer’s point that we already have satellites watching us and, in some places, cameras on street corners? It’s a classic case of privacy vs. security. In the post 9-11 world, privacy seems to have been trumped by security, but is it too far?

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