Arlington Police Now Have FAA Approval to Use Those Drones They Bought

Categories: Crime, Technology

Leptron helicopter drone.jpg
Image via Leptron.
Last month, we told you that the Arlington Police Department submitted an application to the Federal Aviation Administration in 2012, asking to please be allowed to use the two small remote control drones they bought. The drones were purchased for a little over $200,000 from Leptron Industrial Robotic Technologies, with grant money from the Department of Homeland Security. Arlington PD's request to fly the drones came to light as part of an open records request submitted to the FAA by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported yesterday that the Arlington Police have gotten approval from the FAA to use the drones. Freshly appointed Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson announced yesterday that the approval had come from the agency in late February.

The Star-Telegram reports that Johnson made the announcement at an annual awards banquet; they didn't issue a press release about it, nor is it mentioned in the press release from the banquet . The paper says the drones are 58 inches long, equipped with cameras and will be used in "numerous law enforcement missions."

Johnson told the audience that the technology could be used to search for missing people or photograph car crashes. They're not to be used for "police pursuits, traffic citations or on routine patrols," he added. He promised the new drones would be "an asset for the community" and "not an intrusion into people's civil liberties."

The Arlington Police are, according to the paper, one of several cities participating in "drone evaluation programs," sponsored by drone-making companies, aimed at figuring out how best to use the new technology. (The Austin Police Department was also accepted into such an evaluation program, before the idea was abruptly killed by the city last June.) By all means, guys: Start using the drones first, then figure out how they should be used.


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30 comments
autumn
autumn

What's the limit on those, and when does the season open ?

sam2sam
sam2sam

Drone usage promises to aid the identification, monitoring, capture, and if need be execution of terrorists and others who represent a clear and present danger to the United States.

Further, an ever-increasing number of U. S. citizens at home and abroad wish us harm, so they are included, without distinction, as potential targets.

The problem is the current rules for drone usage lack clear definitions for the operational terms “material support,” "The potential intelligence value of the individual,” and the all-inclusive phrase "Such other matters as the President considers appropriate.” It’s Catch-22 with no way out.

Under the law as currently written, any U. S. citizen who is a war protester, publicly exhibits anti-government sentiments, is a Tea Party activist, or a political opponent of a given Administration could fall (or be made to fall) under one or more ill-defined and ambiguous conditions and therefore be deemed an "enemy combatant".

If the Feds believe you are committing a “suspicious activity” or “supporting hostilities,” you can be hauled off and held indefinitely in military custody with neither legal recourse nor due process. Your Constitutional rights to free speech and personal liberties would disappear with the stroke of a hidden pen.

Cleverly invented to counter growing terrorism, drones usage offers no controls nor checks and balances to prevent them from being used for politically nefarious purposes.

Imagine what Richard Nixon would have done if he’d had such peremptory or discretionary presidential authority? Any of his antagonists, like Daniel Ellsberg, would have monitored by domestic drones... and then Ellsberg would have been picked up and held for providing “material support” to the enemy in a time of war.

There are currently no discernible safeguards to prevent a paranoid and power hungry President (think Johnson, Nixon, or Obama), or his/her national security team, from using drone technology as a threat and/or punishment to political enemies, particularly given the exigencies of war or a domestic emergency like 9/11.

For national security purposes, Americans are already subject to warrantless wiretaps of calls and emails, the warrantless GPS “tagging” of their vehicles, the domestic use of Predators or other spy-in-the-sky drones, and the Department of Homeland Security’s monitoring of all our behavior through “data fusion centers.”

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/03/ff_nsadatacenter/

Given this toxic mashup of losses of privacy, if the road to hell is paved with good intentions, then domestic drones are a superhighway to an Orwellian panoptic gulag.

America’s promise has always been the power of the many to rule, instead of the one. Ungoverned drone usage, particularly domestically, gives power to the one.

Domestic drone usage is ill-conceived, elitist, and end-runs our inherent Constitutional protections.

Here are two (2) different videos that anchor my points:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ssoOASanKao

http://vimeo.com/59689349

doclawson
doclawson

Ok, but my friends and I clearly saw one of these mini helicopter-type drones flying over Ford Stadium at the SMU-A&M last fall. It hovered over the westside stands by the press box for 15-20 minutes during half time. 

So if Arlington PD is the first to get permission around here, who the hell was that?

observist
observist topcommenter

This is basically a lower-cost alternative to sending up a live pilot in a full-size helicopter to track fleeing suspects, etc.

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

Who cares?  Don't do stupid shit in Arlington, and you won't have to worry!

CogitoErgoSum
CogitoErgoSum topcommenter

The word "drone" just conjures up disturbing images of Predators armed tot eh teeth with missiles. Let's call this what it is -- an overgrown RC helicopter. Until they arm it with hellfire missiles or a 20mm cannon, who cares?

Dub919
Dub919

Why, again, does a local police department need drones?  The militarization of our police departments is a little bit disconcerting to me.

Don North
Don North

they can't even handle girls they have to hand cuff and them slam to the ground, they are looking for cd pirates, last bust was 600 cd's, called "big piracy operation", can you imagine what they will do with drones? lmfao

CitzenKim
CitzenKim

"Johnson told the audience that the technology could be used to search for missing people or photograph car crashes."

OK, searching for missing people I get.  But "photograph car crashes?"  What, are they going to stage some crashes where the drone's camera is pointing?

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

Did Arlington obtain the drones because they could; or, because they have a compelling need for them?


Does anyone realize from where the Department of Homeland Security gets their funding?

Joe Downey
Joe Downey

Juast have it fly over Texas Stadium you will catch the criminals you want Jerry and his BOYS

ChrisYu
ChrisYu

@sam2sam   Arlington will soon be a police state! political prisoners will languish in Cowboy Stadium!

roo_ster
roo_ster

@doclawson I looked up the weight and they go 11lbs, 21 lbs with a full load.  Yep, enough to kill a man if it lost power or control.

roo_ster
roo_ster

@doclawson I don;t know.  Could have been APD on a test/joy ride. 

 FTR, hovering over a crowd with an RC aircraft like that is as irresponsible as waving a gun at them. Were that sucker to crash, it is big & heavy enough to kill.  If APD is puling that sort of stupid LEO trick, they need to be slapped silly.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@CogitoErgoSum it can be used to spy into homes in a way that wouldn't be allowed otherwise.  Perhaps the Supremes will get in on this, but similar usage of infrared and other special tools are not allowed without a warrant.  Thus far, these haven't been checked.  I agree that there are many uses that are of little concern, but there are many that are at issue.  The real threat to me is when they perfect the tiny drones that are the size of an insect or hummingbird.  One could land on your window sill and you might never know. 

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@Esteban Mainzer yeah, Liberals run TX and Arlington.  What a moronic comment.  You dumb Swede!   See, how utterly missing your target is confusing?

sam2sam
sam2sam

@ChrisYu @sam2sam Big Brother is Big Brother REGARDLESS of who's in the Control Room, Local, State, or Federal officials. I'm OK with drones being use for specific targeted events (plane crash, fire, train wreck, bank robbery). I'm NOT OK with them being on routine patrol. History has convincingly shown that all power tools eventually reach a point of "full use syndrome" and then abuse.... period.I spent 17 years in the very high-end security business. I'm not a James Bond-type, but I have previously worked with some who filled that role. Just because someone works for local or national security doesn't give them a better 'moral chip' in their character to refrain from using or abusing the power of 24/7 drone patrols. It's BS!


CogitoErgoSum
CogitoErgoSum topcommenter

@scottindallas @CogitoErgoSum If this began to be an issue, I'm fairly certain this would make its way to a high court, if not  SCOTUS. Currently, air surveillance is allowed from a height that is considered public airspace, but cameras are not allowed to be placed covertly on someone's property without a warrant. This will certainly be a future 4th Amendment issue.

ChrisYu
ChrisYu

@sam2sam @ChrisYu  got it, you're looking at the big picture. I don't really believe anybody in Arlington is that evil...Jerry lives in Highland Park.

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