The police state you always feared is forming as you watch. Don’t sit back and let it happen.
Look! Up in the sky! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? It’s … a drone, (also know as a U.A.S, or US, or U.A.R.), and it’s watching you. That’s what privacy advocates fear from a new law that allows the government to fly unmanned spy planes in U.S. airspace.
The FAA Reauthorization Act, which President Obama signed, orders the Federal Aviation Administration to develop regulations for the testing, licensing, and implementation of commercial, and military drones into the U.S. national airspace by 2015.
Privacy advocates say the measure will lead to widespread use of drones for electronic surveillance by police agencies across the country and eventually by private companies as well.
“There are serious policy questions on the horizon about privacy and surveillance, by both government agencies and commercial entities,” said Steven Aftergood, who heads the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation also is “concerned about the implications for surveillance by government agencies,” said attorney Jennifer Lynch. The provision in the legislation is the fruit of “a huge push by lawmakers and the defense sector to expand the use of drones” in American airspace, she added.
According to some estimates, the commercial drone market in the United States could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars once the FAA clears their use.
The agency projects that 30,000 drones could be in the nation’s skies by 2020.
The highest-profile use of drones by the United States has been in the CIA’s armed Predator-drone program, which targets Al Qaeda terrorist leaders. But the vast majority of U.S. drone missions, even in war zones, are flown for surveillance. Some drones are as small as model aircraft, while others have the wingspan of a full-size jet. Still others are as tiny as a fly or bee. There are a hummingbird drone, a bat-like drone, and a mosquito drone that can inject fluid.
In Afghanistan, the U.S. use of drone surveillance has grown so rapidly that it has created a glut of video material to be analyzed.
The legislation would order the FAA, before the end of the year, to expedite the process through which it authorizes the use of drones by federal, state and local police and other agencies. The FAA currently issues certificates, which can cover multiple flights by more than one aircraft in a particular area, on a case-by-case basis.
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