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More Drones Set To Use US Air Space 223

Dupple writes with a quote from the BBC about more testing of Predator drones in U.S. air space: "Tests have been carried out to see whether military drones can mix safely in the air with passenger planes. The tests involved a Predator B drone fitted with radio location systems found on domestic aircraft that help them spot and avoid other planes. The tests will help to pave the way for greater use of drones in America's domestic airspace."
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More Drones Set To Use US Air Space

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  • by paiute ( 550198 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @09:39AM (#41829529)
    Say farewell forever to even the concept of posse comitatus, limited as it was. Now it is just a Latin phrase you never heard of.
    • by Big Hairy Ian ( 1155547 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @09:43AM (#41829567)
      So you don't think the Police will have their own drones?

      It's just another bear in the air

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by capnkr ( 1153623 )
      You'll have no need for such obscure knowledge in the USSO, Comrade.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @10:16AM (#41829931)

      The lawyers will make sure this has no more appearance of domestic military action than the AR-15 in the trunk of your local squad car.

      The persistent surveillance concerns are as much a concern with camera towers and balloons as powered vehicles. Most people don't seem to mind the Wal-Mart Panopticon despite its much greater persistence than a lithium polymer powered flying machine.

      Abuse potential:
      -Weaponized drones getting hacked or abused by corrupt/human cops(jealous husband).
      -Fishing expeditions under vague/broad mission profiles such as "missing child search" leading to search warrants.
      -Low-cost enabling more aggressive swarm behavior ala Half-Life 2.
      -encrypted/obscurificated video surveillance without a warrant(any application which requires covert video should be based on execution of a warrant). Transparency to consumer wireless video standards greatly reduces abuse potential in a similar way to police scanners.

      Bottom line, the general public takes no issue with drones used for first responder & public safety applications. They take issue with surveillance, investigation, and man-hunts.

      The first 2 are resolved by making drone video/picture evidence inadmissible in court. Man-hunts are greatly solved by technological limitations(ATM), and prohibiting the use of weapons.

      Bottom line, so long as the Supreme Court's don't make any dumb decisions involving the fourth amendment, most fruit from the poison tree will be useless in court. This means we primarily need to resist attempts to make progress down the slippery slope of search without a warrant, and paramilitary police tactics.

      Drones were predicted by Orson Wells because they are the inevitable march of technological progress. Drones offer the potential for less violent resolution to conflict which we should all hope would reduce the need for heavy handed tactics. Many cases of police brutality result from an officer's fear for their personal safety. The ability to determine the nature of a threat without infringing on civil liberties will prevent them from assuming the worst case scenerio and over-reacting because of what might-have been.

      • Drones were predicted by Orson Wells because they are the inevitable march of technological progress. .

        H G Wells?

      • As much as I don't even care for the surveillance aspects... It's highly unlikely that local law enforcement will have weaponized drones any time soon... In much the same way as they don't typically carry RPGs.
      • by cusco ( 717999 )
        Wells? Nikola Tesla was building drone boats before Wells (either one) ever even saw an airplane.
    • by fustakrakich ( 1673220 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @10:18AM (#41829943) Journal

      Posse comitatus does not prohibit the use of the military against civilians. It only states that congress must authorize it, meaning the local sheriff, mayor, or governor can't call in federal troops. Only congress and the president can do that. So it's still wide open.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @10:23AM (#41829993) Journal

      Say farewell forever to even the concept of posse comitatus, limited as it was. Now it is just a Latin phrase you never heard of.

      Oh, don't you worry your pretty little head about that. The military won't technically do any law enforcement(though it may prove necessary to engage in certain 'domestic Force Protection' activities in order to safeguard DoD assets and personel...), they'll just fire-sale off military hardware under the Law Enforcement Support Office [](unless you trust DoD certs, you'll probably get an SSL warning here) program to various police SWAT teams who will then use it for them.

      See, absolutely nothing to worry about. Yes, the police may be logistically indistinguishable from your average upper-developing-world mechanized infantry; but the org chart says they aren't military, so it's all good.

      • Yes, the police may be logistically indistinguishable from your average upper-developing-world mechanized infantry; but the org chart says they aren't military, so it's all good.

        You do realize that the reason for posse commitatus is not to keep the local police from having effective and modern weapons, it is to keep the people who are using the effective, modern weapons under the control of the local civilian government, not the federal military command, and not imposing "outsider" rules on a local population? As in, troops can't go in to quash a whiskey rebellion, for example, or used to maintain control in southern states after they rebel again []. Except, of course, under order of

        • Even under order of the President, it is still illegal to use military against the civilian populace.

          Posse Comitatus Act was intended to limit military use, not enable it. The military can only be used domestically for means explicitly spelled out in the Constitution, or by Congressional legislation. The President has literally nothing to do with it, other than allowing or vetoing said Congressional legislation.
    • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @02:48PM (#41833255)
      Time for people to hone their skills with model (or "amateur") rocket engines and IR trackers.

      Srsly. It is easily within casual hobbyist technology to bring these things down.
  • by space_jake ( 687452 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @09:39AM (#41829531)
    Take that fourth amendment!
    • Plain View Doctrine (Score:4, Informative)

      by stevegee58 ( 1179505 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @09:43AM (#41829561) Journal
      The Plain View Doctrine (or is it "Plane View"?) probably applies here unfortunately.
      • Everyone will just need to increase the diameter of their tin foil hats to about 4 to 6 feet, and never leave home without it.

        • I think you have your numbers wrong.

          You need to increase your hat to 426 feet in radius to cover your property.

      • "The Plain View Doctrine (or is it "Plane View"?) probably applies here unfortunately."

        Perhaps on a Federal level. But state law here still makes it illegal to "surveil" someone's property from any vantage other than "a plain view from the street" or sidewalk. Meaning that even casual use of cameras in drones, over residential property, is illegal. Yes, even for law enforcement or military.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Is the drone stopping and frisking you? Is it taking some kind of infrared scan of your home? An overhead drone can't see anything that isn't in plain view. I'm certainly not saying domestic drones are a good idea, but I'm not seeing how their mere usage could be considered unlawful search and seizure.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        same as GPS tracking in my book. was just fine for someone to follow you around, they couldn't do that to everyone due to manpower limits.

        Police cannot have 5 planes wandering around just looking and recording. They could have 5 drones.

        What is OK for a person to do becomes no so OK when it is automated.

  • by RobinH ( 124750 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @09:41AM (#41829545) Homepage
    Eventually other countries will have drone capability, and will be flying them over US soil. It's important that we develop the technology to do it safely. ;)
  • You should sit in on a tasking meeting
  • by Solozerk ( 1003785 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @10:04AM (#41829815)
    The "radio location system" they mention is probably ADS-B, which emits the position, speed, heading, etc... of planes every second.

    Interestingly enough, you can listen in on those with a 20$ tv tuner (software defined radio): []

    So I guess the good news is at least that we'll be able to tell when and where the drones are flying... if this is abused enough, once could also imagine taking them done with DIY drones.
    • Not every plane is equipped to receive those signals and not every plane is required to transmit those signals. I have friends whose planes don't even have a battery / electrical system (they use magnetic compass and vacuum gauges). So long as the drones stay above say 30,000 feet and takeoff / land only at certain airports I suppose they might not interfere.
      • by JustNiz ( 692889 )

        I like your idea. The whole point of a drone is to (quietly) fly low and slow to see stuff. Having a law that requires drones to stay above 30k ft will basically render them useless. Good.

    • 5 months before the ADS-B detector is added in to every radar detector and police scanner on the market.

    • once could also imagine taking them done with DIY drones.

      Meant to write "one could also imagine taking them down", of course...

  • by XxtraLarGe ( 551297 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @10:04AM (#41829817) Journal
    <sarcasm>This type of thing won't happen when Barack Obama is president!</sarcasm>
  • by AntiBasic ( 83586 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @10:07AM (#41829843)

    They told me if I voted for McCain, we'd see drones blanket our domestic airspace... and they were right.

  • by kbonin ( 58917 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @10:08AM (#41829849) Homepage

    If domestic drones will be allowed in domestic civilian airspace as long as they carry active ADS-B transponders, then there are a number of receiver+software packages that would enable them to be tracked by anyone with some tech skills.

    Google "ADS-B receiver", one example: []

    • by JustNiz ( 692889 )

      Partially, but many if not most aircraft dont implement it yet. Its especially unlikely that any general aviation aircraft (think cessna 172 and similar) will have it, and these are the aircraft that are most likely to be flying in the same airspace as a drone.

      ADS_B is part of FAA's Nexgen project. They will only require most aircraft to carry it by 2020.

      Personally I think this test will be a foregone conclusion for political reasons regardless of how actually safe it is.

    • by duinsel ( 935058 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @10:29AM (#41830079)
      No need for skillz, there are websites [] that track stuff for you. (At least their coverage for non-US flights is ADS-B based, real time, and collected from private contributing scanners AFAIK, US flights go through FAA)
      • by kbonin ( 58917 )

        I would imagine that if this evolves it will end up having constraints attached to it along the lines of the prohibitions on retransmitting or relaying information from other protected radio frequencies. While there are useful reasons to translate and distribute general flight tracking information, I'd be willing to bet that either these services are forced to omit law enforcement transponders altogether, or there will be automated gag orders on such sites regarding to drones under certain circumstances su

    • If I were the military, then I would argue that the drones are able to avoid any aircraft, and therefore do not need to carry a transponder themselves.

    • Anyone up for building an anti-drone that homes in on ADS-B transponder signals? Takes a drone to kill a drone!

  • JOE: Ask the cop on the corner...

    DC: Ask the cop in the grocery store...

    JOE: Ask the cop in the woodpile...

    DC: Ask the cop on the rooftop...

    JOE: Ask that cop that's knockin' at your back door...

    SOUND: Knocking.

    DC: Ask him!


  • Pilots Soon To Go (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @10:19AM (#41829945)

    Make no mistake. As soon as the body of safety data gets large enough we will see the elimination of pilots on commercial air craft. Once it is established that the bots drones are safer than human pilots another trade will vanish. Commercial trucking is on the edge of eliminating human drivers already. The safty record looks good and computized drivers do not break rules, speed, or go mental from the boredom.
                        The purpose of technology has always been to eliminate human labor. The catch is that we have no social structure at hand to take care of the many millions being displaced by job losses due to better technologies.

    • by jasnw ( 1913892 )
      Really? I don't see an automated pilot handling that emergency landing in the Hudson River several years ago, nor handling that situation many years ago when a plane lost most of it's controls and was crash landed in Iowa saving the lives of many people on board. My concern with drones is not privacy so much as it is safety. I do not like the idea of unpiloted aircraft in the commercial airspace of this country except on very limited and very critical (not watching OJ run from the law) purposes, and I wi
      • I will never get on an airplane that does not have a live pilot in the cockpit who will die with me if the plane goes down

        Well there could be a point when the computer gets too smart and crashes upside down or something to save the electronics while sacrificing the passengers, but I imagine that computers can be programmed to find sites to crash land, and I'm not sure that having pilots who can panic about their mortality is an advantage.

    • All technology, with the possible exception of vaccines, have advantages and disadvantages. And it's always a judgement call as to whether it's a good deal or not. Pilots and truckers would say no, travelers looking at potentially lower ticket prices, taxpayers looking at potentially less budget spent on the FAA, consumers looking at lower costs of goods would probably say yes.

      Unless these things were perceived as unsafe, be it through FUD campaigns based on isolated incidents or be it companies maki
  • by Ukab the Great ( 87152 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @10:23AM (#41830005)

    Pro: A drone could deliver you a pizza from your favorite joint across town during rush hour in five minutes.
    Con: It could also deliver hellfire missiles if you don't tip the operator.

  • by oracleofbargth ( 16602 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @10:26AM (#41830033) Homepage
    Am I the only person who is surprised that this story hasn't been tagged with "skynet"?
  • by JustNiz ( 692889 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @10:31AM (#41830111)

    Personally I think this test will be a foregone conclusion for political reasons that drones will be deemed useable (even over cities) regardless of how actually safe it is.
    Its especially ironic considering the current air law prohibits pilots flying 'experimental' class aircraft or ultralights over cities or any built-up area.

  • Around Lake St. Clair, from SANG []

  • by endus ( 698588 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @10:57AM (#41830377)

    Because we TOTALLY need drones in domestic airspace to protect us against ______________.

    • They will find a target. It's only a matter of time before a hellfire missile is used on a domestic target. And as others have said, it won't matter who you vote for next week.
  • Everyone seems to be jumping to the conclusion that drones will be used for law enforcement. That's a valid concern, of course, but one can imagine legitimate uses of unmanned aircraft:
    • crop dusting
    • search and rescue / emergency response
    • precision agriculture []
    • communication relays
    • weather monitoring
    • wildlife research
  • Remember the ever present police hover craft in the dystopian future of Jessica Alba's backside?
  • Sure mine won't be as classy as the military grade drones. But I'll still be able to do some cool stuff...

    - Follow the police around and see what they are up to all day
    - Follow the local politicians around to see who's working and who's dicking around all day
    - Watch fireworks from above
    - Drop politically motivated leaflets
    - Provide a roving 3g/4g hotspot anywhere I want

    Possibilities for this are endless.... Go Forth my Drone Army!!!!!
    • Anyone reading your list can see that the Police Protective Guild or some SuperPAC will ensure that our Fearless Leaders will close all the pertinent loopholes in the law so as to felonize any civilian uses.



    Calling it "Predator B" just leads to confusion, as the production model of the Predator is the MQ-1B, the follow-on to the prototype RQ-1A.

    This causes no end of frustration on an almost daily basis at work...

    Besides all this, the aircraft in the article was a Guardian, which makes calling it a "Predator B" even more inane.

    • All pedantry aside, the "Guardian" (...Reminds me of "To Protect and Serve", brilliant connotation!) is an unarmed(?) model of the "MQ-1B".

  • ...all we need now is Skynet and Romney's eyes to start glowing red!

"How many teamsters does it take to screw in a light bulb?" "FIFTEEN!! YOU GOT A PROBLEM WITH THAT?"