Drones over America. Are they spying on you?

Deputy Amanda Hill of the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office in Colorado prepares to use a Draganflyer X6 drone equipped with a video camera to help search for a suspect in a knife attack. Drones are in demand by police departments, border patrols, power companies, news organizations and others wanting a bird’s-eye view that’s too impractical or dangerous for conventional planes or helicopters.  [Mesa County Sheriff’s Unmanned Operations Team/AP]

“Thousands of drones could be routinely flying over the United States within the next ten years. They can help with law enforcement and border control, but they also raise questions about invasion of privacy.”

By , Staff writer, Christian Science Monitor / June 16, 2012

Most Americans have gotten used to regular news reports about military and CIA drones attacking terrorist suspects – including US citizens – in Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere abroad.

But picture thousands of drone aircraft buzzing around the United States – peering from the sky at breaches in border security, wildfires about to become major conflagrations, patches of marijuana grown illegally deep within national forests, or environmental scofflaws polluting the land, air, and water.

By some government estimates, as many as 30,000 drones could be part of intelligence gathering and law enforcement here in the United States within the next ten years. Operated by agencies down to the local level, this would be in addition to the 110 current and planned drone activity sites run by the military services in 39 states, reported this week by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), a non-government research project. Continue reading

India Deploys drones (UAVs) Against Maoist/Naxalite Rebels

March 23, 2012 by The Editor, UAS Vision

The Indian government said on Tuesday that it has begun using unmanned aircraft in Naxal-affected areas of the country. “Yes, madam,” Minister of State for Home Jitendra Singh told the Lok Sabha in a written reply.

The minister, however, said, “It is too early to make an assessment on the effectiveness of unmanned aircraft deployed in Left-wing extremism-affected areas.” The biggest threat to the general election does not come from terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir with their Kalashnikovs and rocket-launchers.

It is the spectre of Maoist violence that is worrying security agencies. Thousands of central and state security personnel will be stretched to their limit during the election as they fight a cat and mouse game with men and women who still swear by the dream of proletariat rule. Maoist or Naxalite violence is of serious concern in 12 of India’s biggest states.

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India: Counter Insurgency forces are mis-directed by Israeli surveillance drones, highly over-rated

[As imperialist and reactionary governments have placed exaggerated reliance on drones (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or UAV’s) for remote-controlled surveillance and  bombing missions, the growing number of civilian casualties (“collateral damage”) from armed missions (in Pakistan and Afghanistan), and confused surveillance intelligence (as reported below, and elsewhere) is generating growing doubts in counterinsurgency circles about this supposedly accurate tool.  They have invested a lot in the promise of this weapon, so they do not want to give it up.  —  Frontlines ed.]

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by Yatish Yadav, India Today, in  New Delhi, January 3, 2012

Images provided by drones are not actionable since it cannot penetrate foliage.

Heron drone proves a dud in tracking Maoists in Chattisgarh

In the second week of December, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flew over the Maoist-hit areas of Dantewada district in Chhattisgarh, picking up images of village dwellings and human movement.

At the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) control room the information was treated as a major breakthrough since the drones deployed in the area had so far failed to provide sufficient intelligence inputs.

The state and paramilitary forces were also convinced that the images were of a Naxal camp. An operation was immediately planned. Surprise and speed were to be the key elements.

The operation was to be similar in nature to the ones successfully undertaken by the US-led allied forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A surrendered Maoist was also quizzed to clear the doubts about the target location.

Armed with the visuals provided by the Heron drone, a team of two units, comprising paramilitary was dispatched on foot to encircle and sanitize Teriwal village in Dantewada.

Another 125 personnel were to be air dropped at the assembly area which was some kilometres away from the presumed Naxal camp at Teriwal, as was indicated by the footage relayed by the UAV.

But on December 19, an air force MI-17 helicopter with armed personnel on board came under fire while it was carrying out its 10th sortie. Two shots hit the rotor of the helicopter. The men had a lucky escape.

The sudden attack on the chopper caught the forces off guard. The UAV images clearly did not provide any indication of Maoist movement in the area, which was chosen to drop security personnel and was far away from the presumed rebel camp.

The drone image virtually led the forces into a trap. The suspicion about the images grew when it was discovered that the presumed Naxal camp was a nondescript village.

“Several huts and human movement were captured by the UAV cameras in Teriwal village. So it was presumed that it could be a Naxal camp,” a government source said.

Chhattisgarh inspector general of police (Bastar range) T. J. Longkumer said: “Given all the factors, the operation was successful. I will not be able to comment on the UAV images. But it is very difficult to differentiate between a Naxal hideout and a normal settlement.” Continue reading