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Forum Post: Combat Drones Soon To Fly Over U.S. Airspace

Posted 9 years ago on Feb. 15, 2012, 11:49 a.m. EST by SparkyJP (1646) from Westminster, MD
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

Congress is demanding drones in the air over the United States - without considering the civil liberties issues. Within the span of three days last week, the House and then the Senate passed a law - H.R. 658 - requiring the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to speed up, within 90 days, its current licensing process for government use of drones domestically and to open the national airspace to drone aircraft for commercial and private use by October 2015. While the law requires the FAA to develop guidance on drone safety, the law says absolutely nothing about the privacy or transparency implications of filling the sky with flying robots.

As CDT and others have pointed out, drones are powerful surveillance devices capable of being outfitted with facial recognition cameras, license plate scanners, thermal imaging cameras, open WiFi sniffers, and other sensors. Drones' unique ability to hover hundreds or thousands of feet in the air - undetected, for many hours - enables constant, pervasive monitoring over a wide area. Without clear privacy rules, public and private use of drones can usher in an era of unparalleled physical surveillance. Without transparency requirements, citizens will not even have the basic right to know who owns the drone watching them from above. Congress, the FAA, industry bodies, and the American people all should play a role in ensuring that drones are used responsibly.


Congress missed a major opportunity to build civil liberties protections into H.R. 658. Instead, Congress fast-tracked the bill, ordering the FAA to unleash drones without even requesting a study or holding a hearing on the civil liberties implications of domestic drone deployment. Perhaps indignant hearings are inevitable, however, once hours of embarrassing drone footage hits YouTube. Ideally, privacy rules for civilian and government use of drones would be an explicit part of the baseline privacy legislation, though Congress should consider giving the FAA authority to build privacy into the drone licensure process.


As CDT argued in a previous blog post, the FAA should build transparency standards into its drone certification process. First, applicants for a license to use a drone should be required to submit a statement disclosing the surveillance capabilities of the drone and the intended use of information the drone might collect. Second, the FAA should make the drone license and accompanying privacy statement publicly available online. There should not be an exception for law enforcement, although there may be a national security exception. Transparency requirements alone will certainly not provide adequate civil liberties protections to the American people, but they would generally prevent the secret use of drones.

The transparency requirements CDT proposes are well within the FAA's mandate to ensure the airways are used safely. There are many realistic scenarios in which knowledge of drone ownership can affect public safety, such as if an individual seeks to learn whether her abusive ex-husband possesses a drone license, as well as numerous legal precedents alleging a risk of harm to the public in divulging travels patterns, political views, or sensitive affiliations - all of which drone surveillance can reveal. The FAA already makes many aircraft licenses searchable online, enabling the public to search for license-holders by name, craft tail number, or craft make and model - it would be illogical not to establish a similar process for drone licenses. Unfortunately, the FAA has steadfastly refused to identify current drone license-holders.

The Drone Industry

The drone industry has a big image problem. A glance through the comments section of any online news article on drones reveals an outpouring of strong opinions that alternate between alarm, fatalism, and - very often - fantasies of shooting drones out of the sky as a means to protect privacy. To counter this widespread negative sentiment, the drone industry has announced a major public relations effort to make Americans more comfortable with drones. (I sincerely hope this PR push will include drones dropping ice cream sandwiches and confetti on you on your birthday.) To be sure, drones can do many positive things and can spark broad technological innovation. However, the industry's goodwill gesture will not mask continued use of unmanned aircraft to watch over political rallies, monitor traffic, or levy taxes. The industry needs to do something a lot more substantial than PR.

The drone industry has a strong interest in supporting - at minimum - transparency requirements for drone licenses. Secret use of drones magnifies the perception of privacy invasion, sensationalizes the industry, and provides cover for those who would use drones for unethical or harmful purposes. The transparency requirements CDT proposes would subject the industry to almost no extra burden while providing the public with an awareness that could foster greater comfort with the technology. The drone industry should think seriously about a set of best practices for drone operators that include not identifying individuals over space and time without permission. CDT made similar arguments with regard to facial recognition.

The Public

The FAA is widely expected to propose rules for domestic drones this coming spring, at which time the FAA will solicit public comments. All Americans can submit their concerns to the FAA and demand, at a minimum, that all drone licenses be made publicly available. There is a lot at stake here. The fact that Congress, the FAA, and the drone industry appear to be ignoring the issue portends a big mess on the horizon. But by the time they get around to establishing the needed civil liberties protections, the horizon may already be filled with softly whirring black dots.





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[-] 2 points by shield (222) 9 years ago

The United States is rapidly passing legislation allowing the military to violate all of the rights of anyone in the world, including here in America. They are also passing legislation to allow them to control the freest source of information on the planet, approve more and more weapons, and ban private gun ownership. Also THEY'RE BRINGING THE TROOPS HOME. The war in the middle east is over. Target annihilated. Time to come "home".

[-] 2 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 9 years ago

the camera information should be broadcast publicly on the internet

[-] 1 points by JackHall (413) 9 years ago

The Patriot Act came first. Then warrantless wiretapping followed. Now prepare for the flying robot nuisance. Despite what you believe, public relations follows a secret recipe to manipulate public perception, and opinion. Our legislative bodies have been artfully duped. A century of decadent consumption has created industrialized mass production monsters.

Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing the flow of information between an individual or an organization and the public. Public relations provides an organization or individual exposure to their audiences using topics of public interest and news items that do not require direct payment. The aim of public relations by a company often is to persuade the public, investors, partners, employees, and other stakeholders to maintain a certain point of view about it, its leadership, products, or of political decisions. Common activities include speaking at conferences, winning industry awards, working with the press, and employee communication.

How to Brainwash a Nation http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZ8ZvYNlxiM&feature=related [right click]

Century of Self http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OmUzwRCyTSo [right click]

[-] 1 points by SpartacusTheSlave (60) from Las Vegas, NV 9 years ago

You can download the pdf here: Signed Legislation Signed on February 10, 2012 Ultralight Aircraft Smuggling Prevention Act of 2012


which takes you here:


Call to Action: Demand that President Obama Veto H.R. 658 And Scrub The DHS Wide Area Aerial Surveillance System (WAASS) It Enables (Yea right. Just like he vetoed the NDAA.)


We are being exterminated.

They claim that the drones will be armed with shotgun tasers. The shotgun projectile carries a battery and amplifier electronics. After the dart hits you, the battery drops off and dangles from a strong Kevlar wire. That exposes a conductor on the outside. If you try to pull the dart out, it shocks your hand.





But you can see from the videos that the shotgun taser only has a range of a few hundred feet. It can't be fired from an aerial drone, or the drone would crash into a building or tree. It's bullshit. They are planning to arm the drones with live amo.

30,000 drones over 50 states is 600/state. The Predator RQ-1 drone is made in San Diego by General Atomics, with a unit price tag of $4.5 million. 30,000 x $4.5M = $135 Billion ! If you assume that a 4 year university degree costs $100,000, that equates to 1,350,000 university scholarships.

[-] 1 points by DanielBarton (1345) 9 years ago

Drones just mean robot planes it will be interesting to see how this goes and what this might bring to society we may have cargo planes fly themselves or something.

Better police and disaster response could also benefit from this to help find people.

this sounds like a good idea to me and i was already thinking of building a drone for my own use in the summer of just studying how to do it and for the fun.

[-] 1 points by TechJunkie (3029) from Miami Beach, FL 9 years ago

When I was 15 years old, I was lost at sea, 20 miles offshore, without a boat, for 19 hours. With my dad. Spearfishing mishap. We were in a low-traffic area, with no way to signal to a boat even if one did pass by.

In 2007 a close friend of my dad's was lost at sea while spearfishing, and her body was never found.

I really like the idea of the US Coast Guard flying drones. Lots and lots of drones.

[-] 1 points by DanielBarton (1345) 9 years ago

i do too i think the potential for greatness is very high

[-] 2 points by TechJunkie (3029) from Miami Beach, FL 9 years ago

Your posts got down-voted by people who apparently disagree.

It seems a little like people in 1910 objecting to the idea of airplanes. They're just airplanes without pilots. They don't all carry Hellfire missiles.

[-] 1 points by epa1nter (4650) from Rutherford, NJ 9 years ago

Although I agree with what you're saying TJ, the paranoia is just a sign of the times and is perfectly understandable. Between the Patriot Act, the 2012 NDAA, banks essentially conspiring in ways that resulted in economic collapse and suffering for millions of people, voter suppression laws, ALEC and corporations writing legislation, and a general nearly complete erosion of democracy, there are reasons aplenty to feel suspicious these days.

[-] 1 points by TechJunkie (3029) from Miami Beach, FL 9 years ago

I understand, but if people in the US start exploding after getting hit from the air by drones then that will be worrisome. But the US government could assassinate people from the air already, with manned aircraft. They don't seem to be doing that. Planes without pilots are not inherently sinister.

[-] 1 points by DanielBarton (1345) 9 years ago

i know they dont which makes them a wonderful potential ive seen the drones up close and personal that carry the missiles and they are the size of a city bus so its not like any old joe can go out and buy them.

But that was a good story and i hope that these drones are used for that because it would help save alot of lives

plus there is a business potential in this having drone shops and factories new markets for a new world

[-] 2 points by TechJunkie (3029) from Miami Beach, FL 9 years ago

Definitely. I live in Miami where there are a lot of people floating on rafts out there in the ocean trying to get here. We hear about them drowning all of the time. It's very sad.

Even more worrisome was the incident of a wooden boat from Haiti carrying 200 people that landed at the Rickenbacker Causeway.


The problem here is that where they landed on the Rickenbacker is only three and a half miles from the Coast Guard station at the Port of Miami. It's literally in direct line of sight from the port. Proof that the Coast Guard is essentially blind.

That happened just after 9/11. Two miles from the port. It was a boat big enough to carry 200 Haitians. How big does an Iranian boat carrying a nuclear warhead need to be? Or an Al Qaeda version of Fidel Castro's Granma yacht, carrying a dirty bomb? At the very least, the US Coast Guard needs drone capability to do their job.

[-] 1 points by DanielBarton (1345) 9 years ago

yeah i think well all need them to help with everyday problems

good post

[-] 1 points by Renaye (522) 9 years ago

The glaring omission is that there is nothing that concretely states that the drones cannot be armed or weaponized. That is a massive omission and not likely an accident.

[-] 1 points by DanielBarton (1345) 9 years ago

because we shouldn't make them to do that they will but who cares everything will be normal and the cheap ones wont have weapons so

also i would never want to do something so stupid

[-] -1 points by JackHall (413) 9 years ago

An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), commonly known as a drone, is an aircraft without a human pilot on board. Its flight is either controlled autonomously by computers in the vehicle, or under the remote control of a navigator, or pilot (in military UAVs called a Combat Systems Officer on UCAVs) on the ground or in another vehicle. There are a wide variety of drone shapes, sizes, configurations, and characteristics. Historically, UAVs were simple remotely piloted aircraft, but autonomous control is increasingly being employed.[1] Their largest use is within military applications. UAVs are also used in a small but growing number of civil applications, such as firefighting or nonmilitary security work, such as surveillance of pipelines. UAVs are often preferred for missions that are too "dull, dirty, or dangerous" for manned aircraft.

UAV http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unmanned_aerial_vehicle [right click]

The First Drone Games http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQ9tVxPkunI&list=PLE724501BDD60E5F7&feature=view_all [right click]

[-] 1 points by TrevorMnemonic (5827) 9 years ago

is this a bot auto-posting to everything with the term DRONE ??

Because all the posts on DRONES are at the top now and this comment is on at least 4 posts that i've read so far.

[-] 1 points by JackHall (413) 9 years ago


No bot autoposting. Who would have dreamt that drone squadrons could be patrolling the American skies with US Congressional backing? Who would vote for this?

Isn't it bizarre that nearly 12 years after 9/11 attacks the US Congress is promoting this technology nationwide.

If people thought the country has been heading in the wrong direction before, where are we now? Technologies have "evolved" beyond the grasp and reach of ordinary citizens. If weren't for sci-fi we'd be totally unsuspecting.

The Star Wars defense couldn't be achieved. Heaven knows they spent billions of dollars on the doomed project. Flying-killer droids are another matter. Killer drones appear to heading to this country like a swarm of locust and africanized killer bees.

The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) was proposed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan on March 23, 1983, to use ground and space-based systems to protect the United States from attack by strategic nuclear ballistic missiles. The initiative focused on strategic defense rather than the prior strategic offense doctrine of mutual assured destruction (MAD). The Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO) was set up in 1984 within the United States Department of Defense to oversee the Strategic Defense Initiative. The ambitious initiative was widely criticized as being unrealistic, even unscientific as well as for threatening to destabilize MAD and re-ignite "an offensive arms race". It was soon derided, largely in the mainstream media, as "Star Wars," after the popular 1977 film by George Lucas. In 1987, the American Physical Society concluded that a global shield such as "Star Wars" was not only impossible with existing technology, but that ten more years of research was needed to learn whether it might ever be feasible.

Star Wars was under the weight of a putative $1 trillion price tag. Some critics warn that SDI actually could cost two and one-half times that. While it is unlikely that SDI will be as cheap as the $40 billion claimed by some SDI backers, the price tag probably would have been in the range of $115 billion to $120 billion spread out over ten years.

Under the administration of President Bill Clinton in 1993, its name was changed to the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) and its emphasis was shifted from national missile defense to theater missile defense; and its scope from global to more regional coverage. It was never truly developed or deployed, though certain aspects of SDI research and technologies paved the way for some anti-ballistic missile systems of today. BMDO was renamed to the Missile Defense Agency in 2002.

Cost of SDI Star Wars http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/1987/10/strategic-defense-how-much-will-it-really-cost [right click]

The day before the 9/11 attacks it was announced that the Pentagon "lost" $2.3 trillion in 1 year. Now it seems certain that drones will be coming to a theater near you.