Big brother is definitely watching you. And now he can shoot you without leaving his desk.
Drones Developed Using Military Technology Are Being Sold To U.S. Law Enforcement Agencies
Now that Congress has ordered the Federal Aviation Administration to open up U.S. airspace to unmanned vehicles, the aerial surveillance technology first developed in the battle space of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan is fueling a burgeoning market in North America. And even though they’re moving from war zones to American markets, the language of combat and conflict remains an important part of their sales pitch — a fact that ought to concern citizens worried about the privacy implications of domestic drones.
Altogether, the drone industry’s lobbying group, Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, claims 507 corporate members in 55 countries. The industry proved its clout in February when Congress mandated the FAA open U.S. airspace to drones starting this year. According to the AUVSI’s annual report, the group was responsible for the legislative language ordering the FAA to expedite the applications of qualified public safety agencies seeking to fly drones weighing less than 4.4 pounds this year. Larger drones will be eligible to fly in U.S. airspace by 2015.
Perhaps the most prominent firm in the U.S. drone market is Vanguard Defense Industries in Texas, which sold a $275,000 drone called the ShadowHawk to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office in Texas last year. The company is run by CEO Michael Buscher, a 24-year veteran of U.S. Army Special Operations. In his LinkedIn profile, Buscher says that VDI offers technology “that will dramatically extend U.S. national security capabilities.”
Uniquely among U.S. manufacturers, VDI touts its ability to weaponize drones for local police departments. “If you think weaponized unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are still too new to combat zones for law enforcement to consider them for domestic use, think again,” said the editors of Special Weapons for Military and Police in February:
The Kevlar fuel tank mounted beneath the ShadowHawk allows it to stay in the air long enough to provide complete surveillance of an area and engage suspects with buckshot, tear gas, grenades and less-lethal capabilities.
Vanguard has touted the weaponized ShadowHawk to police departments in Ohio and Illinois, according to emails published online by the hackers collective AntiSec.
Other Pentagon contractors are already marketing to U.S. public safety agencies. Insitu, a Washington state-based subsidiary of Boeing, touts its “Inceptor” drone as an all-weather instantaneous “eye in the sky” for U.S. police, fire and rescue workers. The Virginia-based Aurora Flight Sciences offers the Skate drone with three full-motion video cameras for police departments looking to conduct search and rescue operations and perform accident investigations. BAE Systems, another Pentagon contractor, says it has tested a small drone for civil use but a spokesman declined to answer questions about its other products for the domestic market.
With 56 domestic government agencies now authorized by the FAA to fly drones in U.S. airspace, law enforcement is leading the way in the adoption of unmanned vehicles. According to documents published last week by Electronic Frontier Foundation, 22 of the authorized agencies are primarily law enforcement departments, while another 24 entities (mainly universities) have law enforcement functions under them.
Among the domestic users are the Department of Homeland Security, which flies a fleet of nine drones over the country’s northern and southern borders, and the FBI. A Bureau spokesman declined to comment on the nature and purpose of the FBI’s drones saying that he could not discuss “investigative techniques.”
While industry spokesmen say existing laws will adequately protect civil liberties and privacy, Congress held no hearings on the implications of domestic drones, and a wide range of opponents insist the drones pose a threat to privacy.
Pay attention folks! Sh*t is real as fawk. Real live Space Invaders coming to a neighborhood near you.
Get involved and reach out to your local Congressman/Congresswoman because real legislation needs to go in effect to protect our civil liberties. Otherwise we could all end up living Will Smith’s nightmare from “Enemy Of The State.”
Source Benjamin Wheelock