The cutting-edge technology used in drones provides our military with an unrivaled perspective from above, allowing them to identify and engage targets from miles away, but now that the same technology is being used on American soil, many are starting to feel a little uneasy about the idea of an elusive, video-equipped robot watching their every move.
Virtually spying on forms of communication was not enough for the American government, and it is now considering the possibility of implementing drones for aerial surveillance. The American public needs to make it clear that it will not tolerate unrestricted drone surveillance, just like it will not tolerate the NSA’s invasive methods of spying.
In 2013, FBI Director Robert Mueller admitted that the intelligence agency has used drones “in a very, very minimal way, and very seldom” to assist in some of its investigations.
In 2012, the Georgia Tech police department submitted a FAA application that requested permission to deploy drones during home football games. The request was denied, but it reaffirms the eagerness by law enforcement agencies to begin utilizing the new technology. According to CNN, the FAA predicts that by 2018, there will be an estimated 10,000 unmanned drones in use in the U.S.
Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) argues that while “unmanned aerial systems have the potential to more efficiently and effectively perform law enforcement duties,” the FBI needs to “respect the U.S. constitution.”
For the same reasons that they are useful, the military drones have the potential to revolutionize law enforcement in the U.S. Drones would allow law enforcement to safely and efficiently monitor targets of criminal investigations, and they are far easier to deploy in emergency situations than their larger counterparts, like helicopters. Instead of putting an officer’s life at risk, drones can be deployed for surveillance in crisis situations. Used correctly, these machines could save countless lives and assist in solving and reducing crime. Used incorrectly, the same machines could be used to strip the American public of the small remnants of privacy that we still have.
It is important to keep in mind that drones were never intended for civilian monitoring and are meant to be suited for military combat. On the battlefield, these modern marvels can be equipped with night vision lenses, heat-seeking missiles, mounted automatic machine guns and video recorders. Anything even remotely resembling the military version of the drone is unacceptable for use by civilian law enforcement agencies. Drones are designed to spy on targets and to bring death from above. Quite frankly, the idea of having thousands of these machines flying around in America horrifying.
Luckily, there are ways to responsibly incorporate drones for use by law enforcement without a total disregard for privacy and liberty. The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia offers the following guidelines for adopting legislation that would allow for drone use in America: “providing legal restraints for the government and law enforcement’s use of drone technology, prohibiting the use of drones for surveillance, information gathering purposes, and acts of aggression and violence against human beings and prohibiting the domestic use of drone technology by police departments without a probable cause warrant or in the case of an emergency.”
— Samuel Woo is a sophomore from Marietta majoring in business administration and international affair