Drones have already been deployed across several US states, but thousands of UAVs could soon be flying all across the country for surveillance purposes that some privacy advocates consider unconstitutional.
The Federal Aviation Administration has received at least 60 applications for drone employment in the US and this month approved 348 drones for domestic use. Most of the currently employed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are being used along the Mexican border to help law enforcement officers crack down on illegal immigration, but some drones will soon be used to monitor civilians.
The sheriff’s office in Orange County, Fl., has already experimented with two domestic surveillance drones that it plans to use over metro Orlando starting this summer, the Orlando Sentinel reports. The drones would not be armed, but would be used to track down criminals, terrorists and illegal immigrants, as well as be used for environmental monitoring and wildfire surveillance, according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS).
The FAA predicts that 30,000 UAVs will fly over the US in less than 20 years, which has alarmed privacy advocates who claim the drones are a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects against ‘unreasonable searches’. (...)
Across the nation, at least nine other legislators have taken steps to restrict the use of drones on their constituents. In December, state Sen. Alex Padilla introduced a bill to try to regulate drones in California, while Massachusetts Rep. Ed Markey introduced a bill to establish national privacy safeguards and limit surveillance. Missouri Rep. Casey Guernsey considers the use of surveillance drones unconstitutional and this month introduced the ‘Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act’, which would require law enforcement to obtain a warrant in order to use UAV surveillance to gather criminal activity.
“As drones become less expensive, our fear is that police and other agencies could use them for fishing expeditions that infringe on individual’s right to privacy,” Gary Brunk, executive director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri, told the Kansas City Star.
14 Jan 2013