In response to a Freedom of Information request submitted in April 2011, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has accessed thousands of pages from the FAA detailing the use of drones within U.S. borders. It turns out that police departments and universities have quietly been using drones since 2004. Via Blacklisted News, EFF staff attorney Jennifer Lynch’s on what they found:
The 18 entities represented in the files include police departments from Seattle, Washington to North Little Rock, Arkansas; about 10 public colleges and universities; a few federal agencies, including the USDA and the Department of Energy — Idaho National Labs. The files go back several years and include COAs for every year that the entity has had drones. For some entities this is as early as 2004.
As readers will discover for themselves, often the police department’s description of their intended use for the drones does not match the scope of the permitted flight plans as indicated on maps included in the files.
Disturbing to constitutionalists should be the drone-deploying alliance formed between law enforcement and the public university located in Ogden, Weber State University. Such cooperation between police and professors may soon become commonplace given details of a drone pilot program being developed in Ohio.
Is there any doubt that soon classes will begin appearing in college course catalogs that promise to train students to operate drones? Is the government set to not only provide grants to universities to fund the development of new and more powerful drones, but to teach students how to fly them once they are manufactured?