Monday, April 4, 2011

Honey, there is a remote controlled police plane circling over the house! Get out of the pool and put some cloths on! Yes, soon that will be the conversation heard from your neighbors as there is a recent push for a un-manned airplane called a drone to police the United States skies. The Federal Aviation Administration is considering the use of these unusual planes for search, seizure, traffic and more in the investigation of criminal types.
These are unmanned aircraft inspired by the success of drones on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. Should the average Joe Q. Citizen be treated as a major criminal or opponent on a battlefield? Should the same type of battlefield weapons be used on taxpayers? Why not! No police officer will be injured in this sting. We will just be stung by a un-manned vehicle. No, this is not a scientific fictional movie; this is my and your backyard. Is nothing sacred any more?
Local governments have been pressing the Federal Aviation Administration for wider use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs-a demand driven by returning veterans who observed the crafts’ effectiveness in war, according to experts at New Mexico State University and Auburn University. Police could use the smaller planes to find lost children, hunt illegal marijuana crops and ease traffic jams in evacuations of cities before hurricanes or other natural disasters. We are already having our share of natural disasters.
The FAA is expected this year to propose new rules for smaller unmanned aircraft, a process that will include input from the public, says FAA spokesman Les Dorr. The agency also is talking with the Justice Department and national law enforcement groups “about possibly trying to streamline the process of applying for certificates of authorization” to operate such planes, he says. Does that mean that creepy “Bounty Hunter” could also get a remote control to harass us? Oh No!
Drones have flown in the USA for several years but have been limited to restricted airspace and to portions of the borders with Canada and Mexico. “We’re extremely interested in being able to pave the way to integrate unmanned aircraft into the civil airspace,” says Doug Davis, deputy director of the Technical Analysis and Applications Center at New Mexico State University, which is researching the issue for the FAA. Davis says UAVs range in size from 15 ounces to 34,000 pounds and a wingspan bigger than a Boeing 737’s. So, that bat you see flying around your property just might be a un-manned surveillance vehicle. Creepy!
Don’t look out your window now. The researchers predict that drones will be used by police departments in about 5-10 years from now because of one major obstical that has to be worked out for use in urban areas. The thing has a inability to “see and avoid” other aircraft as required by federal regulations. It works well in the desert where there are not too many obstacles to crash into. Thank goodness I live in a city with lots of buildings around. Davis believes operators on the ground can comply with federal rules if they can see the aircraft and the surrounding environment. Remember that toy plane you used to fly in the park via remote control?
No police departments have been authorized to use them, but agencies in Houston and Miami have conducted field tests of such planes. Did your real estate agent tell you that? The Miami-Dade Police Department has tested two 18-pound UAV’s equipped with a camera for about 18-months, Sgt. Andrew Cohen says. The department has been licensed to operate the craft up to 200 feet in the air, but the drone must remain within 1,000 feet of the operator. So, if you are in Miami and you see a police car parked on your block and you see a small plane flying out your window please close your blinds before you change your cloths.
Why do we need these new police toys? They say, “It’s an opportunity to increase safety for the officers.” I think it is yet another excuse to increase our taxes to pay for these toys and use them to further invade our increasingly limited privacy in a time of increased surveillance.

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