Urban Warfare: Are Police Drones Coming To The 'Hood?
Local law enforcement agencies are investing in weapon-laced drones
People are protesting. Communities are organizing. The poor are pissed.
You know what that spells? T-H-R-E-A-T.
At least that is what your government may be thinking as it is being revealed that law enforcement on the federal and local level have been doing quite a bit of investing in drones.
The business of marketing drones to law enforcement is booming. Now that Congress has ordered the Federal Aviation Administration to open up U.S. airspace to unmanned vehicles, the aerial surveillance technology first developed in the battle space of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan is fueling a burgeoning market in North America. And even though they’re moving from war zones to American markets, the language of combat and conflict remains an important part of their sales pitch — a fact that ought to concern citizens worried about the privacy implications of domestic drones.
In laymans terms, the government will not only be peeking in your window, but they may very well be streaming footage of what they see back to precinct. To let you know just how serious things can get, leading drone maker Vanguard Defense Industries in Texas sold a $275,000 model called the ShadowHawk to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office in Texas last year. It should be noted that Montgomery County includes Houston.
The ShadowHawk can stay in the air long enough to provide complete surveillance of an area and hit "suspects" with buckshot, tear gas and grenades. The ShadowHawk has also been offered to local law enforcement in Illinois and Ohio.
Wall Street Journal also reports that "nearly 50 companies are developing some 150 different systems, ranging from miniature models to those with wingspans comparable to airliners" to sell to law enforcement to keep a leg up and eye on citizens. It is also being reported that by 2016, law enforcement is expected to spend $6 billion on drones.
But, to let the people who work at the companies making the drones tell it, we have nothing to worry about. They say the police just want drones to make their jobs a little easier in hostile situations.
“My personal view is that complaints about privacy are overblown and unfounded,” says Carl Schaefer , director of small UAS products for Aurora Flight Sciences. “Police departments want UAVs to increase awareness more quickly whether at a crime scene or a hostage situation. These guys want to see around a corner. They aren’t peering in windows. We’ve never got a request to do that kind of stuff and we’ve had very extensive discussions with potential customers.”
What do you think of local law enforcement seeing out drones as a line of defense?
[Also Read: FBI and NYPD Clash Over Spying On Muslims]