Information, Who Is Flying Unmanned Aircraft In The U.S.?
By Shane Nolan
January 15, 2012 - The Electronic Frontier Foundation
(EFF) filed suit on Tuesday against the U.S. Department
of Transportation (DOT), demanding data on
certifications and authorizations the agency has issued
for the operation of unmanned aircraft, also known as
Drones are designed to carry surveillance equipment
including video cameras, infrared cameras and heat
sensors, and radar that can allow for sophisticated and
almost constant surveillance. They can also carry
weapons. Traditionally, drones have been used almost
exclusively by military and security organizations.
However, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection uses
drones inside the United States to patrol the U.S.
borders, and state and local law enforcement are
increasingly using unmanned aircraft for investigations
into things like cattle rustling, drug dealing, and the
search for missing persons.
flying over 400 feet needs a certification or authorization from
the Federal Aviation Administration, part of the DOT. But there
is currently no information available to the public about who
specifically has obtained these authorizations or for what
purposes. EFF filed a Freedom of Information Act request in
April of 2011 for records of unmanned aircraft activities, but
the DOT so far has failed to provide the information.
give the government and other unmanned aircraft operators a
powerful new surveillance tool to gather extensive and intrusive
data on Americans' movements and activities," said EFF Staff
Attorney Jennifer Lynch. "As the government begins to make
policy decisions about the use of these aircraft, the public
needs to know more about how and why these drones are being used
to surveil United States citizens."
companies and research organizations are working to develop even
more sophisticated drones, so their use is poised for a dramatic
expansion in the coming years. Meanwhile, news reports indicate
that the FAA is studying ways to integrate more drones into the
national airspace because of increased demand from federal,
state, and local governments.
EFF's lawsuit asks for immediate response to their FOIA request, including the release of data on any certificates and authorizations issued for unmanned aircraft flights, expired authorizations, and any applications that have been denied.
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