The Department of Homeland Security has announced in a solicitation to drone manufacturers that it will begin testing “Robotic Aircraft For Public Safety” at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, indicating that small spy drones will be used to keep tabs on Americans in the near future.
As Infowars reported back in July, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano told a House Committee on Homeland Security that the federal agency was “looking at drones that could be utilized to give us situational awareness in a large public safety [matter] or disaster.”
This represented an about-face of sorts for the agency, which had previously been reticent about the idea of using surveillance drones to spy on the public.
However, a recent solicitation posted on the FedBizOpps website confirms that the DHS is launching its Robotic Aircraft for Public Safety (RAPS) project and is asking small unmanned aerial systems (SUAS) vendors to take part.
The drones are set to be used for applications such as “law enforcement operations, search and rescue, and fire and hazardous material spill response” and will fly for 30 minutes to two hours at a time, weighing around 25 pounds so they can be launched by hand.
“DHS’ second thoughts on drones may not be so surprising,” reports Wired News. “In recent years, DHS has gotten interested in vastly expanding its surveillance capabilities, exploring cameras reminiscent of military ones that can spy on four square miles at once.”
As we reported earlier this year, the DHS is already using another type of airborne drone surveillance, also utilized to track insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq, for the purposes of “emergency and non-emergency incidents” within the United States.
A bill passed by Congress in February paves the way for the use of surveillance drones in US skies on a widespread basis. The FAA predicts that by 2020 there could be up to 30,000 drones in operation nationwide.
US law enforcement bodies are already using drone technology to spy on Americans. In December last year, a Predator B drone was called in to conduct surveillance over a family farm in North Dakota as part of a SWAT raid on the Brossart family, who were suspects in the egregious crime of stealing six missing cows. Local police in this one area have already used the drone on two dozen occasions since June last year.
Police departments are also attempting to get approval to use surveillance blimps that sit over cities and watch for “suspicious activity.”
The U.S. Army recently tested a football field-sized blimp over the city of New Jersey. The blimp can fly for a period of 21 hours and “is equipped with high-tech sensors that can monitor insurgents from above.”