Drones in Our Skies

SUBHEAD: What can they see and what purpose will they be used for? Should we be concerned? Hell yes!  

By AP Staff on 10 April 2012 in the Garden Island News -  

Image above: A Predator B unmanned aircraft lands after a mission at the Naval Air Station last November in Corpus Christi, Texas. From article below.
A $75,000 unmanned drone aircraft sits unused in a Honolulu state office. [IB Editor's note: Of course we have no idea what US military and intelligence agencies might be doing already with stealthy drones in Hawaii. At $75k the drone the state of Hawaii bought was much less capable than a Predator ($4.5million) but it's the thought that counts.] That's because state Department of Transportation officials never checked to make sure the aircraft could be flown around Honolulu Harbor.

Hawaii News Now (http://bit.ly/IqcREL ) reports the state purchased the drone with a $1.4 million federal grant to install high-tech security measures at the harbor, where more than 90 percent of the state's merchandise arrives every year.

The drone was supposed to be used to transmit aerial video of harbor facilities. But state Department of Transportation spokesman Dan Meisenzahl says it turns out the harbor falls within restricted airspace. He says the state made an unfortunate mistake.

The state harbors division hopes to partner with another state or county agency that can use the drone for surveillance.

Drones Over America  

By WHYY Staff on 12 March 2012 for NPR -  
Unmanned aircraft systems, or drones, have long played a role in military operations. But imagine thousands of drones flying over U.S. skies — something we may see in just a few years. In February, President Obama signed an aviation bill requiring the Federal Aviation Administration to make plans to integrate drones into American airspace.

On Monday's Fresh Air, John Villasenor, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a professor of electrical engineering at UCLA, explains what these drones will be able to see and how they work. He also talks about the privacy and national security concerns raised by using drones for surveillance purposes.

Villasenor tells Dave Davies that drones, which are currently in use over the U.S. border with Mexico, have an endless list of non-military uses, from providing overhead surveillance for police departments to spotting wildfires and monitoring illegal border crossings.

Drones could also be used commercially by real estate firms to get overhead images of a property, by surveyors and cinematographers, and even by paparazzi trying to fly over celebrity homes, says Villasenor.

"That is going to be certainly some of the tests of what the limits are going to be provided by [paparazzi]," he says. "The paparazzi will want to use drones if they can, and obviously that's going to raise some very significant questions."

One question about drone usage obviously concerns privacy. In 1986, the Supreme Court ruled that police officers who used a small single-engine airplane to spot hidden marijuana plants in someone's backyard in California did not violate the Fourth Amendment because they were in "public navigable airspace in a physically non-intrusive manner."

"Now if you take that ruling and apply it to a world in which there are hundreds or thousands of drones, that obviously gives rise to some very significant concerns," says Villasenor. "If you interpret that ruling by itself, as things stand today, that would certainly suggest that people would have a fair amount of latitude to make observations using drones."

But several rulings involving what can be observed from outside a property to look inside a property may also apply, says Villasenor. He points to the 2001 case Kyllo v. United States, in which the Supreme Court ruled that the use of a thermal imaging device to monitor heat radiated from inside someone's home without a search warrant violated the Fourth Amendment.

"There's a very interesting piece of language in that ruling that when you map it to drones is really interesting," he says. "[It says] 'Where, as here, the government uses a device that is not in general public use to explore details of the home that would previously have been unknowable without physical intrusion, the surveillance is a search.' One of the interesting phrases in that language is 'not in general public use.' If we fast-forward two or three years from now, when drones are in public use, does that change the legal foundation for what you can and can't observe from the outside of a home that would have been previously unknowable without physical intrusion?"

Drones as civilian weapons platforms 

SUBHEAD: Trends indicate that domestic use of drones will lead to an surveillance tyranny keeping us in an electronic concentration camp.

By John Whitehead on 2 July 2012 for the Rutherford Foundation - 

Video above: John Whitehead presentation on drones used for electronic tyranny. From (http://youtu.be/31gpH6BgPOs).
The U.S. government has a history of commandeering military technology for use against Americans. We saw this happen with tear gas, tasers and sound cannons, all of which were first used on the battlefield before being deployed against civilians at home. Now, as John Whitehead reveals in this week's vodcast, the drones—pilotless, remote controlled aircraft that have been used in Iraq and Afghanistan—are coming home to roost.

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