[In the hands of repressive authority–what many now recognize as a growing police state–these drones vastly expand the tools to be used to spy on and repress targeted communities, suppress political opposition movements, and to control all activities which the powers that be–however tyrannical, racist, militaristic, or suppressive they may be–determine to be unauthorized and unacceptable to them. They will intensify the invasions of privacy and the restrictions on social mobility of curfews, checkpoints, and walls. — Frontlines ed.]
One Nation Under The Drone: The Rising Number Of UAVs In American Skies
a Predator Drone
Jillian Rayfield December 22, 2011
A secret air show in Houston. An unmanned blimp in Utah. A sovereign citizen arrested in North Dakota.
Each of these is just one small part of the bigger story of the proliferation of unmanned aircraft use within the U.S., and each is likely to become smaller still if the FAA goes through with plans to loosen regulations governing domestic use of drones.
News reports about Predator attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan are common if not always complete, but what’s gotten much less attention is the increase in unarmed drones that are buzzing around within the U.S. itself. Primarily, unarmed Predator B drones are only used by government agents to patrol the borders for illegal immigrants, but there are a (very large) handful of other agencies and companies that use smaller, unarmed drones for a slew of other purposes. And that number is only expected to grow.
The FAA says that as of September 13, 2011, there were 285 active Certificates of Authorization (COA) for 85 different users, covering 82 different unmanned unarmed aircraft types.
Though the exact breakdown of the organizations who have authorization is unclear — and the FAA would not elaborate for “privacy” and “security” reasons — in January the Washington Post reported that as of December 1, 2010, 35% of the permissions were held by the Department of Defense, 11% by NASA, and 5% by the Department of Homeland Security. The FBI and law enforcement agencies also hold some, as do manufacturers and even academic institutions.
Between pressure from trade groups (like the drone manufacturers group the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International), proposed legislation from Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) to expand the number of drone testing sites in the U.S., and petitioning from states like Oklahoma for an approved 80-mile air corridor reserved exclusively for drone development and testing, there is great potential for drone use to expand within the U.S. in the next few years. Continue reading