Seattle Police Department is 1 of 50 organizations in the country that has been granted permission from the federal government to start using unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones.
The Draganflyer X-6 drone will be fitted with surveillance cameras as well as an infrared “eye” that can see in the dark.
In February, President Obama signed a bill that will allow as many as 30,000 drones to be flown by anyone from police to the Department of Homeland Security, within the United States.
This announcement is already causing concern by local citizens as well as the ACLU of Washington.
“Police drones have valuable uses, but they also provide an unprecedented ability for the government to engage in surveillance of the activities of law-abiding people,” said ACLU-WA Executive Director Kathleen Taylor.
ACLU-WA is asking the city of Seattle to produce transparent and clear policies for when and how the drones will be used.
The Sky Valley Chronicle also pointed out that the SPD, after an 11 month probe, was found by the U.S. Justice Department to have engaged in “a pattern or practice of excessive force that violates the Constitution and federal law,” without even having drones yet.
Even more troublesome is the recently discovered Air Force intelligence brief that states that if drones “accidentally” capture surveillance footage of Americans, the data can be stored and analyzed by the Pentagon for up to 90 days.
The mounting protest against these drones has even prompted the drone industry to implement a P.R. campaign to portray drones in a more positive light.
Despite local and national claims that the drones will only be used for crime fighting, a Miami resident caught a drone on film flying over a Memorial Day event, keeping tabs on party-goers. A drone was also spotted flying over a high school soccer game in Elgin, Illinois.
The Department of Homeland Security announced in a solicitation to drone manufacturers that it will begin testing “Robotic Aircraft For Public Safety,” indicating that small spy drones will be used to watch Americans in non crime-fighting situations.
The Department of Homeland Security also plans to spend up to $50 million dollars on a spy system that has been used to hunt insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan for the purposes of “emergency and non-emergency incidents” within the United States. They have also approved the use of a drone helicopter, used in Afghanistan, that has the ability to be equipped with tazers as well as 12-gauge shotguns and grenade launchers, known as the ShadowHawk, which are already in use in Texas.
Privacy is not the only concern when it comes to these drones. Many are worried about the safety of 30,000 drones buzzing above.
A spy drone almost collided with a corporate jet 8,000 feet above Denver just last May and a Navy drone actually crashed while on a test flight in Maryland. Texas police also crashed a drone into their own SWAT truck while conducting a “secret” test flight. The Washington Post revealed that since January 2011, Air Force records show, five drones armed with Hellfire missiles have crashed after take off. These documents also revealed that a drone started its engine by itself, even though the ignition had been turned off and the fuel lines were closed. Technicians concluded that a software bug had infected the “brains” of the drone, but never were able to pinpoint the problem.
If you thought it couldn’t get anymore frightening, the U.S. has actually developed Nuclear powered drones. Despite years of development the project is on hiatus, thought to be caused from public and political pressure.
Technology experts claim that the future of drones will actually be much smaller, in size at least. Drones the size of birds and bugs are already being developed and tested for public use.
In our age of advanced technology, the problem may not be the technology itself, but the groups and people using them.