Drones Go Domestic

From the Wall St. Journal over the weekend:

"With little public attention, dozens of universities and law-enforcement agencies have been given approval by federal aviation regulators to use unmanned aircraft known as drones, according to documents obtained via Freedom of Information Act requests by an advocacy group.

The more than 50 institutions that received approvals to operate remotely piloted aircraft are more varied than many outsiders and privacy experts previously knew. They include not only agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security but also smaller ones such as the police departments in North Little Rock, Ark., and Ogden, Utah, as well the University of North Dakota and Nicholls State University in Louisiana.

The information, released by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, came to light as the Federal Aviation Administration gears up to advance the widespread use of the drones. By the fall of 2015, Congress wants the agency to integrate remotely piloted aircraft throughout U.S. airspace."

While there are clearly some interesting potential uses for this type of technology, including firefighting, crowd management at large events and law enforcement, this is the type of 1984-esque type of development which is sure to have privacy advocates up in arms for some time to come. My guess is that the deployment of these drones will lead to lawsuits which will help determine the outer bounds of their legal usage. Until then, caveat crimen...

What do our readers think? Is this a good use of technology which can help address some of the problems of modern society, or an example of Big Brother running rampant? Is it something in between? I look forward to thoughts in the comment section below.


  1. Anonymous25/4/12 23:45

    It's not unconstitutional, but it's creepy. Things like this are why we have Article V.

  2. Thanks for the comment. You and I both know how difficult Article V can be to utilize, so hopefully the due process clause and privacy laws (both existing and likely future) will be enough to cover both government and private action.

    And, if not (not saying I am advocating for this, but...) there is always the Second Amendment. If this sounds far-fetched, I would suggest taking a look at this recent story http://www.democraticunderground.com/1002323280. There, a few good ol' boys didn't take too kindly to an animal rights group trying their hand at private surveillance at their expense.

    And, though this is certainly no reflection of any kind of legal rights or rules, commenters on these types of stories, though they sometimes support the law and order angle, seem to break a little more strongly on the 'it's creepy' side of the coin we are both on. This could at least suggest strong public support for developing laws to hinder what these technological marvels can be used for.