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18,000 Police Departments to Have Drones?
June 4, 2012 | William Zimmerman
LOS ANGELES (KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO) -- As the Federal Aviation Administration helps usher in an age of drones for U.S. law enforcement agencies, the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV's) domestically by the U.S. military -- and the sharing of collected data with police agencies -- is raising its own concerns about possible violations of privacy and Constitutional law, according to drone critics.
A non-classified U.S. Air Force intelligence report obtained by KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO dated April 23, 2012, is helping fuel concern that video and other data inadvertently captured by Air Force drones already flying through some U.S. airspace, might end up in the hands of federal or local law enforcement, doing an end-run around normal procedures requiring police to obtain court issued warrants.
"We've seen in some records that were released by the Air Force just recently, that under their rules, they are allowed to fly drones in public areas and record information on domestic situations," says Jennifer Lynch, an attorney with the San Francisco based Electronic Frontier Association, who is looking into various government surveillance techniques.
"This report noted that they are able to collect that information and then determine whether or not they can keep it."
The revised Air Force report is a continuation of a policy already a few years old, but is causing more alarm now as drones appear poised to soon become a ubiquitous presence in U.S. skies thanks to a federal policy to promote their use, first by law enforcement agencies, and then by commercial concerns.
A "streamlined" process for police departments to apply for permits to fly drones was recently introduced by the FAA.
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