U.S. Law Enforcement Seeking To Use Drones For Domestic Policing

Electronic Freedom Foundation board member and drug policy reform activist John Gilmore memo:

EFF.ORG (where I’m on the board) filed a Freedom of Information request to FAA about “drones” (Unmanned Aerial Systems, or UAS’s).

It’s taken the FAA a long time to release info; they sent us another batch recently.  This includes several thousand pages of drone authorizations for law enforcement agencies, universities, and the military.

View EFF-created map of law enforcement ‘drone’ projects here.

Once again, we see in these records that law enforcement agencies want to use drones to support a whole host of police work. However, many of the agencies are most interested in using drones in drug investigations. For example, the Queen Anne County, Maryland Sheriff’s Department, which is partnering with the federal Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security and the Navy, applied for a drone license to search farm fields for pot,”surveil people of interest” (including “watching open drug market transactions before initiating an arrest”), and to perform “aerial observation of houses when serving warrants.”

The Gadsden Alabama Police Department also wanted to use its drone for drug enforcement purposes like conducting covert surveillance of drug transactions, while Montgomery County, Texas wanted to use the camera and “FLIR systems” (thermal imaging) on its ShadowHawk drone to support SWAT and narcotics operations by providing “real time area surveillance of the target during high risk operations.” Another Texas law enforcement agency-the Arlington Police Department-also wanted to fly its “Leptron Avenger” drone for narcotics and police missions. Interestingly, the Leptron Avenger can be outfitted with LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) technology. While LIDAR can be used to create high-resolution images of the earth’s surface, it is also used in high tech police speed guns-begging the question of whether drones will soon be used for minor traffic violations.

More disturbing than these proposed uses is the fact that some law enforcement agencies, like the Orange County, Florida Sheriff’s Department and Mesa County, Colorado Sheriff, have chosen arbitrarily to withhold some or-in Orange County’s case-almost all information about their drone flights-including what type of drone they’re flying, where they’re flying it, and what they want to use it for-claiming that releasing this information would pose a threat to police work. This risk seems extremely far-fetched, given that other agencies mentioned above and in prior posts have been forthcoming and that even the US Air Force feels comfortable releasing information about where it’s flying drones around the country.

EFF news release and links found here.

32 thoughts

  1. In April of this year the Austin narcotics unit crashed their drone into themselves,,another $30,000 wasted on the drug war but priceless for the irony and humor.

  2. It’s hilarious to see our taxpayer dollars burned up for added “security”. This “security” only creates stiffer laws and less forgiving law enforcement. When did the rehabilitation of the common man be cast aside for “enforcement/justice above all”, putting drug users in cages, expecting them to learn their lesson on their own?

    Kudos to Portugal for allowing people to help heal drug abuse rather than waste a mind in a jail cell, in dire need of mental stabilization.

    This is a breach on privacy and should not be allowed. Press on freedom fighters!

  3. These people we’re fighting are jack asses who want to satisfy their egos by trying to win a stupid war they’re obviously losing.

  4. Are they going to fly these things around the super rich peoples stuff to make sure theyre legal? What ever average people are subjected to, the rich must also be subjected to. No person should be able to skirt the system including these douchebags pushing for this sort of garbage!

  5. “…many of the agencies are most interested in using drones in drug investigations. For example, the Queen Anne County, Maryland Sheriff’s Department, which is partnering with the federal Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security and the Navy, applied for a drone license to search farm fields for pot…”

    Multiple factors here:
    1 – aerial surveillance has its place in defense, namely along BORDERS.
    2 – that is a lot of money for something that has no significant negative impact
    (“let the punishment fit the crime”
    or to roughly equate,
    ~’let the remedy be less cumbersome than that which is to be remedied’)

    so, financing, (in an already damaged economy:
    a – purchase
    b – subsystems
    c – repairs/parts
    d – training
    e – and more

    for what?

    if our country was thriving and their were more room for frivolities, maybe,
    but as it is, wtf?

    does that sound like a good use of your tax dollars?

  6. We need to start putting some kind of jamming devices in our homes so when they fly in MY air space they will CRASH!!!

  7. For your own safety provided by the federal government and their angencies against cannabis, is to have absolute panoptic view of it’s citizens. And there’s more…..!
    Using the internet? Federal government got that covered.
    Whatever happens, the federal government made sure that the citizens are part of the blame, and to have some of their rights taken away for better control.
    Cannabis is the federal government’s favorite enemy. That is why it’s number one.

  8. More weapons developed for the military that are later used against the American people, civilians.

    Just because Kerlikowski and the other feds avoid using the expression War on Drugs doesn’t mean they’re not waging war on the American people.

    Nothing spells failure of cannabis prohibition like 2 U.S. states legalizing.

    How about a peace dividend, save some money, make some jobs.

    Come on, Barry!

  9. Isn’t this against the law? To invade people’s privacy like this?

    Kind of like the forward looking infrared that helicopters use?

  10. The federal government is showing signs of an aged empire. When Rome was in decline, they turned their military force against the citizens. It’s where the phrase “Crossing the Rubicon” came from.

    Obama has arrogated to himself the power to secretly imprison or execute citizens without trial, he reads your email, bugs your phone, and flies spy missions over your city. If you travel by air, he strips you naked and searches your luggage.

    When Rome had spent themselves into bankruptcy with wars and ballooning bureaucracy, they taxed the hell out of the wealthy, who then started to migrate to barbarian lands, then Rome taxed migration, then Rome criminalized migration. In the end, if you tried to escape the empire, they simply executed you.




  11. our national defense mechanism is being turned upon the non violent individuals being treated as criminals and not as addiction patients by the health care industry. If mental health patients were treated by the health care industry instead of by the penal institutions that provide predatory training to the people placed into their care, the children dying in their schools may not have ever occured.

  12. Ron Paul is not president and everyone is surprised all their rights are being taken away.

    Next time, vote for someone that actually cares about the people.

  13. Yeah, we had *two* good canidates this time around, and still the brain washed voted only for Demoncrates and Rebublicants. Hello? We had Gary Johnson and Ron Paul yet most of the votes still went to Douche A and Douche B.

    Why does America vote like a drunken, lazy dumbass? And then wonder why things aren’t going well??? Liberals constantly producing hyper-violent movies and video games, but then turn around and want you to be unable to defend yourself when one of their now weapons trained crazies attack. So they help create a problem and offer non-sense non-solutions to it.

  14. You think you guys have it bad. I moved from boulder,CO to Houston TX. It is full of a bunch of constipated moron conservatives. What a difference. Its like Afghanistan with all the guns and rednecks. It could all easily stop if we would legalize weed. It is the money they make over here with weed is the reason why and all of the police even admit it. It is really hard to respect the law. I got sent to jail for a gram of weed that I had and I had to pay 3500 to get out of that mess. I am 55 yrs old, and I have chronic migraines. I desperately need weed for that disease. EVERYONE needs to get all the republicans out of office!!

  15. Not to worry , it’s a Drone Dream .. It has to be a Picture Perfact Day to fly these things… , Absoulutly no wind can be present , no rain can present ( of course ) it take six people to control and fly a drone… So unless your Pablo Escavare; chance are there not looking for you…. You 12 plant animal…..

  16. Isn’t a drone an annoying vibration from a string that’s hitting a fret, or an open string that is creating a background rythym for an epic ..solo

    or a fly that is trapped in a spider web,making all kinds of chromatic chaos in the late afternoon sun.

    fill me in…i grew up in the 70’s

  17. [QUOTE]Not to worry , it’s a Drone Dream .. It has to be a Picture Perfact Day to fly these things… , Absoulutly no wind can be present , no rain can present ( of course ) it take six people to control and fly a drone…[/QUOTE]

    False, they can fly in a 15mph wind. Mine does.

    False, they just need to be sealed against the water. Easier if its a winged craft and not a multirotor, but doable either way.

    False, it takes one person to pilot a UAV. It takes a second person to act as observer if you want the pilot to concentrate only on flying, which is a good idea.

  18. Purchase my song and ringtone Mad Weed on ITUNES its the best argument for legalizing marijuana! Spread the word now!

  19. This is directed to who said we are fighting. I haven’t seen one damn person who is willing to fight for this. Protesting and voting are worthless measures. The reason cannabis is not legal is because they know pot smokers are mostly pacifists. It even says in the constitution that people ha ve the right to REPLACE government when it becomes overly oppressive. And it has been like that my entire life. If everyone would put down their fucking bong for one day and pick up weapons, then those assholes in Washington might just get off their ass. Example….Feds cracking down on CA, but not as much in CO. People therehave the attitude of standing up for their rights. Not a bunch of liberal pussies.

  20. Why did 91% of the People living in the Marijuana Growing regions of Northern California Vote with the Republicans against Marijuana Legalization ?

  21. Because Republicans are something of a front for fascists here in America. Notice, no matter how fascist certain politians are, they never get the correct label? It was pretty funny listening to Dick Cheney talk about how we “are fighting Islamic Fascists”. Sorry, there is no such this as a “Fascist” “Islamic”.

    Islam is effectively anti-fascist and it is stupid of any Muslim to look up to Hitler (just ’cause killed a lot of Jews), as he would have killed them too if he had had the chance. That buffoon Cheney is a fascist statist. The kind of guy that wants to keep US involved in endless wars around the world and the War on Drugs. Endless hate and death and corruption. Fucking great stuff there!

    Fascist, wear your label proud Cheney.

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