A data dump of government documents secured via the Freedom of Information Act shows that the roll out of domestic unmanned drones will, for the most part, be focused solely on the mass surveillance of the American people.
The documents, from the Federal Aviation Administration, were recently made public by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Among the documents are never-before-released Special Airworthiness Certificates (SACs) detailing which private companies have been granted permission to operate drones in US skies.
The EFF notes that the vast majority of drones are being used purely for surveillance purposes:
With some exceptions, drone flights in the U.S. have been all about developing and testing surveillance technology. TheNorth Little Rock Police Department, for instance, wrote that their SR30 helicopter-type drone “can carry day zoom cameras, infrared cameras, or both simultaneously.”
Not to be outdone, the Seattle Police Department’s drone comes with four separate cameras, offering thermal infrared video, low light “dusk-dawn” video, and a 1080p HD video camera attachment.
The Miami-Dade Police Department and Texas Department of Public Safety have employed drones capable of both daytime and nighttime video cameras, and according to the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Certificate of Authorization (COA) paperwork, their drone was to be employed in support of “critical law enforcement operations.”
However, the FAA didn’t just rubber stamp all drone requests. For example, the Ogden Police Departmentwanted to use its “nocturnal surveillance airship [aka blimp] . . . for law enforcement surveillance of high crime areas of Ogden City.” The FAA disapproved the request, finding Odgen’s proposed use “presents an unacceptable high risk to the National Airspace System (NAS).”
The unmanned aerial vehicle industry has attempted to lobby the government using all kind of platforms, suggesting that drones can be used for monitoring environmental changes or the effects of natural disasters.
However, the FAA documents conclusively show, if there was any doubt before, that monitoring the activities of everyday Americans is the number one priority.
As we reported last week, thousands more pages of FAA experimental drone flight records that were obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) detail just how complicated and risky it would be to operate thousands of unmanned arial vehicles safely without spending billions of dollars.
Manufacturers of drones, almost exclusively defense contractors, have spent $2.3 million so far on lobbying Congress to open up US airspace.
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