Image by Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

Police agencies in the United States to begin using drones in 90 days

By Watertown Daily Times

Coming soon to the skies above you — drones, drones and more drones.

And all giving police and who knows who else the chance to peek into your backyard.

Legislation just signed by President Obama directs the Federal Aviation Administration to open the skies to remotely controlled drones within the next three years. It will begin in 90 days with police and first responders having authority to fly smaller drones of less than 4.4 pounds at altitudes under 400 feet. Gradually, all drones are to be allowed by Sept. 30, 2015.

The use of drones had been restricted out of civilian aviation safety concerns created by a sky full of drones flown by untrained operators in the same space as aircraft. But that was overridden by successful lobbying of drone makers and customers who will reap the financial benefits for commercial purposes. “The market for drones is valued at $5.9 billion and is expected to double in the next decade,” the New York Times reported.

They can be used by real estate agents to snap aerial photos. But then, given costs and ease of use, what will stop a member of the paparazzi or any other prying photographer from using them to get more personal snapshots? The Times report said a $300 drone can be flown from an iPhone.

The planned expansion extends the militarization of law enforcement that has been going with the adaptation of military technology and strategies to civilian law enforcement. Police see several advantages to drones over other surveillance.

The pilotless craft cost less, are cheaper to operate and can remain airborne longer. They can be used as a crimefighting tool to patrol from the skies. Authorities can monitor traffic, search remote areas for missing persons or watch criminal suspects. But, then, police can watch a political rally, silently from 30,000 feet overhead.

But also alarming is the danger of escalating their use to include weapons. Drone builders are researching the use of nonlethal weapons such as tear gas, tasers and stun guns fired from a drone, and lethal weaponry can be an easy next step on the slippery slope.

The drones will add to the erosion of privacy that has come with the ubiquitous cameras and global positioning systems that can monitor our whereabouts.

The new law is concerned with safety in establishing guidelines and training requirements for operators. It will be up to governments and even the courts to enact constitutional safeguards on their use.

From Watertown Daily Times: http://www.watertowndailytimes.com/article/20120226/OPINION01/702269975/1036/opinion

For another source, see the New York Times, “Drones With an Eye on the Public Cleared to Fly

103 thoughts on “Police agencies in the United States to begin using drones in 90 days”

    1. GOTTA BE A WAY TO HACK THESE STUPID DEVICES AND CRASH THEM, OR USE THEM TO SPY ON THE COPS. THE SCALES ARE BEING TIPPED, AND WITH ALL THE CORRUPTION IN THE POLICE AGENCIES AND FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, ONE WONDERS WHAT NEFARIOUS PURPOSE THESE DRONES WILL ACTUALLY SERVE!

      1. Well, military drones are unencrypted and can be viewed with fairly cheap software, so unless they improve security for police over military, I think they can be breached. Crashing them is another story. Hackers could definitely monitor them.

  1. “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

    1. A drone hovering overhead while you are in a public place is neither a search nor seizure. Nice try though.

      1. Well, if they’re looking in your backyard, it could be considered a search, as police officers can’t do that without a warrant. Public places would be different though.

      2. You should change your username to CaptainOblivious. You can’t read the comments you are responding to. JoD said not a fucking thing about being in a public place. People like you are what’s wrong with this country. Fucking morons. I would say Nice try though but, you aren’t even trying.

      3. Notsofast, you are wrong regardless, but nice try. It is completely constitutional for the police to look into your backyard, I dont know where you heard otherwise. And in relation to the constitutionality of this, read California v. Ciraolo 476 U.S. 207

    2. That stuff is so 18th century…get with the times were in the new dictatorship of the capitalist class to which no restrictions on control shall be apply. Check with the Supremes!

      1. Yes, it is a great possibility, because police/Sheriff’s helicopters in Los Angeles County are currently being used by our law enforcement to stalk, harass citizens and violate their 4th- amendment rights to privacy (illegal air surveillance) tracking and monitoring citizens movement- especially citizens that file complaints against them. EVERYONE WAKE UP! These drones are going to take the place of helicopters that our law enforcement are now using to do the above. Okaying these drones will only make it easier for law enforcement to further violate our rights by using these drones and then pretend they have a reason to use them (falsify documents) but they really don’t-this is abuse of power. I have been tracked and monitored in this manner for ten years now by law enforcement for filing a complaint against them and there has been no accountability. Also,PLEASE GOGGLE and see L.A. TIMES- LOW FLYING HELICOPTER NOISE

      2. Yes, it is a great possibility, based on the article because police/Sheriff’s helicopters in Los Angeles County are currently being used by our law enforcement to stalk, harass citizens and violate their 4th- amendment rights to privacy (illegal air surveillance) tracking and monitoring citizens movement- especially citizens that file complaints against them. EVERYONE WAKE UP! These drones are going to take the place of helicopters that our law enforcement are now using to do the above. Okaying these drones will only make it easier for law enforcement to further violate our rights by using these drones and then pretend they have a reason to use them (falsify documents) but they really don’t-this is abuse of power. I have been tracked and monitored in this manner for ten years now by law enforcement for filing a complaint against them and there has been no accountability. Also,PLEASE GOGGLE and see L.A. TIMES- LOW FLYING HELICOPTER NOISE

    1. Get your head out the clouds! The problem is you really don’t know what is going on in the world. This and more is taking place and the citizens that know about this and speak out against it .Our police/Sheriff’s are stalking them and monitoring their every movement trying to deliberatly push them over the edge to silence them. In the interium police/Sheriff’s are trying to make people believe the persons are delusional so no one will listen to that person-while they continue violating citizens 4th. Amendment Rights .

    1. Jonathan, if it were that simple, we all would choose to be done. This is not going to be in the best interests of the people. In order for the people to get a fair deal, they should put this matter to a vote in all 50 states.

      1. Boy, am I glad not to be in the US.

        I have never done anything punishable by law, but constant monitoring increases my stress factor noticeably. It’s also not just about being monitored. It’s about having your parents (or, in this case, the state) hanging around, just in case you step out of line.

        It is, for all intent and purpose, going to be like one big Kindergarten.
        I am actually laughing a little. Sorry about that. But you see, to me, you are all little school children not able to take care of yourself. Terrorism has nothing to do with it, and the violence sprouting around your country seems mostly due to frustrations.

        This is obviously not helping. I think I have to go now.

    1. Josh can’t you see that you are being lulled to sleep. Your comment makes my point: The rights of the people are secondary to the rights of the government.

  2. I would say I’m happy not to live in the U.S right now but something tells me that Sweden are soon to follow. That drone would take away the last bit of privacy in my home wich is not for goverment to snoop around in as the feel like. what’s next? If they want a model to follow George Orwell already wrote it in 1948….

    1. or Phillip K. Dick! Robots and drones living overground and humans living underground in a communist society. The future is not other planets,it is underground…

    2. Yes, I agree and wish I didn’t live in this insane police state. You’re right to make the Orwellian connection. This country is going to be on fire with revolution soon enough. There is no way Americans are going to take what si happening here.

    3. The government doesn’t care what you’re doing in your backyard (unless you’re a drug dealer). You’re not that special. Really, you’re not. Get over yourself, no one cares what you’re doing in your house.

  3. “The new law is concerned with safety in establishing guidelines and training requirements for operators. It will be up to governments and even the courts to enact constitutional safeguards on their use.”

    So, we’re screwed.

  4. Reality check, the $US300 drone controlled by an iphone used IR signals. For you guys who skipped class the day they taught light and optics this means you cant control the drone very well if the sun is out; not to mention a 2mph wind will blow them away. The drone in the pix is a high end German model that runs around 15,000 euros.

    Multi rotor copters have been around for a while and I fly and own four of them. They have real limitations, even the Falcom from AscTec pictured above; not the least of which is cost. Bottom line is there is a lot more hype in this article than necessary.

    1. sorry but its not run from infra red. Iphones dont transmit infrared. Sun will not affect if. And they can handle wind. Ragebotjr there may be hype but you have not done your research.

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  6. ragebotjr no, your wrong. the phone uses wifi frequencies not ir. Iphone does not have capability to read ir.

  7. I’m not sure how this differs from police having helicopters. They don’t arm them, and a drone is WAY cheaper to fly.

  8. This is just chaos… Seriously that is why we have police helicopters for. This is just a ploy to augment the lack of drone sales in the military industrial complex. Next you know we will have these-> http://goo.gl/Wxqj6 running around everywhere on our streets for the “greater good of society” just like they said it was in our “best interest” to start the federal reserve, federal income tax, the patriot act, Iraq/Afgan wars, and soon “for the greater security of the globe” we will soon get involved in Iran….

    The people who make these decisions make money off of every middle and low income american slaving away to keep this f***in peice of shit system running.

    In China, the government runs corporations. in America, corporations run the government.

    1. Sad….. It seems as though you are the only one who get’s it.The last decent President your country ever had was also the first to addresss the people publicly before leaving office, Eisenhower.You know what he said?Beware of the military industrial complex, I believe he was one of the first to coin the phrase.Gun up and roll heavy!

      Greetings from the Great White North! (Canada)

    1. My Same thoughts since hearing of these. Wouldn’t take much to take one down. And for the person who posted above about a felony, yes, maybe so, but if the people actually turned the tv or video games off and actually fought back, we could accomplish what is in our best interests, not the evil empire’s. Wake up people, or enjoy your chains…

  9. Won’t people just think these are toys? It doesn’t seem to me that there is any hype. All logical propositions here that cause concern. Hype would be more like the comments below the article.

  10. Breaking future news!!!

    Gov’t scientists have created a invisibility-cloaked drone device with speech & thought jamming gun.

  11. If Iran can hack the CIA’s best then I’m sure some true Americans can figure out how to hack these. Send them flying at full speed right where they came from, your local pig shop.

  12. In other news, birdshot sales are expected to grow for the next three months. Manufacturers are uncertain whether they will be able to keep up with already surging sales of birdshot as a nation becomes fed up Big Brother’s new “eye in the sky”.

  13. All of those planning to shoot these down. They are very small and flying at up to 30,000 feet. Even a high powered rifle wouldn’t reach that far even if you could see them. I guess you could figure out where they are launched from and get them before they get up to altitude and out of range. Go to Google maps, find your house, switch to satellite view and zoom in. This is what civilian technology can do. The military/police will have optics to put Google to shame. They can read your newspaper while you sit on your deck, all from 4 or 5 miles above you.

    1. As stated in the article, the drones will be allowed to fly under 400 feet… that they’re allowed to fly at all is fucked up, no matter what altitude. Can’t wait to see YouTube vids of taxpayers dollars being shot out of the sky. 😉

  14. So far it is the incapable who have been attacked by the prolific lawmakers. There is little to be looted from the collection of misfits presently deemed criminals. Greedy hunger forces surveillance of a different prey, shall we say more abundance of para-legal booty being the prime trigger for attention. I suppose old Mel Gibson movies will be the curriculum material for a new generation of home schooled.

    1. I am a victim of this but most ppl I tell n cry out too try n put me in a mental hospital idk if this message will even post bcuz my cell phone is being monitored as well as everything else I do :( my life is a living nightmare n I’m just a widowed mother of four who came from a poor neighborhood…idk why this happened to me or what I ever did to provoke ppl to tear mine n my childrens lives apart, maybe it’s bcuz I always spoke out against the crooked cops who would always harass us or bcuz I started taking an interest in becoming a Human Rights Activist idk I admit I’m not a saint I’ve made my mistakes but not even the worst criminal in the world deserves what I have been put thru, if it weren’t for my kids I would’ve ended my life a long time ago but I gotta keep going n fighting for them! All my strength n hope comes from Jesus He has been by me thru it all n He’s givin me peace in this storm n shone His light thru all this darkness that surrounds me. All I can say is God Bless America bcuz the Lord will return one day as it says in the Bible, and everyone will stand before Him n receive their judgment, at least I knw I’m going up not dwn…do you knw which way you are going??? Maybe u should stop n think about how your living your life!

  15. Will not tolerate this.

    I’m a supporter of democracy and independence. Not socialism and conformity.

    Seems like either I’m moving somewhere that’s already Socialist or I’m going to purchase a high-powered rifle complete with scope.

    Welcome to reality America, this is what you’ve been neglecting in your pot-filled-media-distracted-overly-dramatized-lives, and now it’s too late for us.

  16. Interesting. Let’s think about the indirect effect… If ‘most everybody knows that their lordships are overhead “spying” on the people, then the people will begin to think of themselves as subjects, not as citizens; begin to see themselves as “other”, with an increased sense of powerlessness. People desire power as passionately as they desire water. What then will be the effect of “drone” surveillance? More conflict, not less, as many people seek to get power from the few – only a few thousand – that actually call the shots. This sort of thing is as old as the rocks, but how will we know if it’s happening? Ah! When the people are thus removed from the calculus of real power the obedient media emphasizes “politics” and “elections” – the old dog and pony show, the con – and the people divide into believers and non-believers in that con. The non-believers then mock, bait, mimic, and demand – wassailing, mummering, – precisely what OWS and Anonymous are doing.

  17. If you are reading this the android we rewired and sent to the future for the soul purpose of writing comments was a success and you all must be warned that you are all in eminent danger. Drones are the beginning then androids come next and then extinction and the new era of the android if you are reading this you are the resistance.

    John Connor

  18. “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. … God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion; what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms.” — Thomas Jefferson to William Stephens Smith, 1787

    1. Hiliarious, my comment about how the governement doesn’t care what you’re doing in your backyard (unless you’re a drug dealer)….got censored by the moderator. LOL, oh the hypocrisy.

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  20. Uhhhh…. They already make drones for photographers. They’re called octocopters and have been on the market for quite some time now. If a photographer was going to use a drone for photographs, they would have already done it

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