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Spies in the Sky: The Big Brother Drones Policing America

Updated on February 17, 2013

Like the book, 1984, and many B-type sci-fi movies, the rise of drones and big brother are here. We are not talking of military drones, like the Predator, but smaller and unarmed ones that many police departments claim they need to fight criminals. These non-military drones can do all sorts of things, like:

  • Record video
  • Create heat images
  • Track anyone including criminals
  • Find missing people
  • Track illegals or protesters
  • Hover for surveillance
  • Find lost people
  • Locate bombs

But the spy in the sky is making many Americans nervous and their right of privacy, hmm, well, that is vanishing. Between police drones and traffic cameras, going out in public loses any privacy. There is a large drone market out there, almost $90 billion is estimated in the next decade.

But the rise of the drones for domestic use right now has no rules or laws about how police can use them. Abuse is just around the corner especially search and seizure searches. States like Arizona and Montana require a search warrant before collecting evidence with a drone. Virginia has outlawed them for now. Idaho allows police their "discretion" in using drones on suspected activities-well, we know where this will go.

Drones can be very cost effective in fighting crime but the potential for police abuse may be just too much. Civilian drones are much smaller and resemble toys, run on batteries and fly short distances and are armed with sensors and cameras. They weigh a mere 4-5 pounds. Seattle police bought several only to return them once the public found out and protested. Oakland wanted to buy some also, but the public opposition was so much, the drone was not bought.

Drones do monitor the US-Mexico border and are very effective, but these are military drones that can stay aloft for over a day. What about targeting a US citizen using a drone, right now, the police need a warrant in some places. What if the US citizen is a terrorist? Should a drone be used to take him out? The Department of Homeland Security thinks so because the US citizen has lost all benefits due to his terrorist affiliation. But some members in Congress take issue with this. Should evidence collected by a drone of such a US citizen in the US be used to prosecute without a warrant?

Lots of good questions with only murky answers.


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    • perrya profile image

      perrya 4 years ago

      The drones are just now coming to police departments and all are struggling with their use and abuses. So, big brother in the sky is still years away. But in London, he's already there with traffic cams. London has the most cams of any large city, wherever you go there is a potential someone is watching.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      Life is a double edge sword...Whatever good thing comes something lurks behind. It is scary to think our privace is invaded. Well done.

    • poetvix profile image

      poetvix 4 years ago from Gone from Texas but still in the south. Surrounded by God's country.

      While I can see the advantages from a military and to a point a police prospective, I can't argue a single point you have made towards the potential for abuse. Considering the behavior of our leaders over the last four years, abuse is probable on a good Vegas bet level!

      I respectfully submit another nightmare problem with this technology I don't believe is getting enough play. Hacking, viruses, taking over by children! Technology is great but we all know it's a double edged sword. Can't you just see it now, in the not so distant future... Little Billy was really pissed, so after a bad day at school he took his little self home and used his savant skills to commandeer three local drones and took out the entire town!

      The idea of drones regularly seen over the American sky evokes images of a cross between "1984", "Atlas Shrugged" and the future of mankind as laid out in the "Terminator." Scary boo!

    • perrya profile image

      perrya 4 years ago

      I agree. We need a clear guideline for domestic use.

    • Conservative Lady profile image

      Sheila 4 years ago from Surprise Arizona - formerly resided in Washington State

      You have raised a lot of legitimate questions here. Drones may well be useful tools for the Military. My feelings are that citizens are right to be cautious about letting local government have Drones. I would think they would have a hard time justifying their cause. Interesting Hub.