With the War on Terrorism most people have become familiar with drones, the unmanned remote-controlled aircraft used by the military for surveillance and assassination in places such as Afghanistan and Pakistan. But, in the near future, you could be seeing drones flying around the neighborhoods of Los Angeles – watching and recording.
The door to this new frontier in domestic aerial surveillance was kicked wide open, for good, in February of this year when President Obama signed the FAA Reauthorization Bill. This legislation’s main purpose was to modernize the nation’s aviation system – something that’s definitely needed. But, the law also authorized the domestic use of military, commercial and privately-owned unmanned drones. The bill had heavy support from drone makers, one of the biggest of which AeroVironment Inc. is located locally in Monrovia, CA.
Recently the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released guidelines on how law enforcement and emergency responders can use lightweight drones.
AeroVironment Inc., big surprise, has already developed a drone called the Qube designed for police use. It comes with a handy color and thermal camera with zoom capability – no weapons thankfully.
The domestic use of Drones is nothing new. They’ve been used to patrol California’s border near Mexico. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection department has eight Predators patrolling the United States’ northern and southwestern boarders looking for illegal immigrants and smugglers.
In Los Angeles, real estate agencies and Hollywood location scouts have been using them for some time to take aerial shots and video.
Drones actually do have good uses such as being used for mountain rescues, manhunts, hostage situations, and monitoring wild-fires. They’re also cheaper than helicopters.
That said, the legislation authorizing the use of domestic drones opens up a can of worms in regards to privacy issues and potential abuse by law enforcement agencies. Of course nothing in the Bill addresses this problem. For a more extensive look into who’s benefiting from this push to fill the skies with drones, what the potential consequences are and how this is pushing us one big step closer to becoming a surveillance society, read attorney John W. Whitehead’s excellent article in the Huffington Post.
When the LAPD gets their hands on these drones, it will be interesting to see what neighborhoods the drones will be spotted in first. Somehow I doubt Beverly Hills will be the first location in which they’re used.
Take a look at the following two videos to see some interesting, if not unsettling, drone tech. The Nano Hummingbird, made by AeroVironment, shows just how inconspicuous a drone can be. The Death Star looking drone was made by Japan’s Ministry of Defense.
By the way, you can buy your own drone at Brookstone. They make great gifts for stalkers and Peeping Toms.