Get ready, America, for here comes “the next latest and greatest thing in aviation.” Wow, what could it be? Maybe the airlines are going to drop all of their ridiculous ripoff fees. That’d be great!
No, no, not that kind of aviation. Also, you probably won’t find this breakthrough so great. It’s the arrival and proliferation of “unmanned vehicle systems,” soon to be buzzing around in the airspace of your own town.
Yes, drones, right here at home. Those very same, tiny, pilotless, remote-controlled, undetectable planes that the CIA has been secretly using to spy on and bomb people in Pakistan and elsewhere are headed to your and my local police departments, FBI offices, and… well, who knows who else will have these “latest and greatest” toys? All we know is that Congress – under pressure from Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and other big drone peddlers – directed the Federal Aviation Agency earlier this year to open up civilian air space to thousands of them by 2015. And, in their wisdom, our loosy-goosy lawmakers provided no regulation of who can have drones, how many, or for what purposes.
So, prepare to be pestered and monitored, for police agencies and corporate interests are said to be abuzz about getting their own. The first ones are expected to be used for high-altitude surveillance, which is worrisome enough, but a Texas sheriff’s office that already has bought a “ShadowHawk” drone says it might outfit the little buzzer to fire tear gas and rubber bullets.
No worries, though, for the drone industry’s lobbying group has drafted a two-page code of conduct urging purchasers to “respect the privacy of individuals.”
How nice. Only, it’s a voluntary code… and totally unenforceable. For more information about this invasive swarm, contact the Electronic Privacy Information Center: www.epic.org.