Drones to Patrol U.S. Skies

MQ-1 Predator Drone

MQ-1 Predator Drone

By now, people worldwide are used to seeing drones on the evening news.  Unmanned drones, like the MQ-1 Predator are the new face of warfare.  Drones do not require a pilot to be physically on board and decrease amounts of military personnel casualties.  Despite their ability to diminish allied losses of life, these machines have led to a great many deaths.  Predator drones, manufactured by General Atomics, and used by the U.S. government in operations in the Middle East, have the ability to be equipped with Hellfire missiles.  The combination of Predator drones and Hellfire missiles has been especially deadly to foreign civilians.  In fact, it has been said that drones kill 50 civilians for every one “suspected” terrorist–like American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki.

Predator drone firing Hellfire missile.

Predator drone firing Hellfire missile.

A recent poll found that 56% of Americans favor continued drone strikes against enemy combatants on foreign soil.  Those who took part in the poll favored the strikes because drones effectively kill suspected terrorists and minimize American casualties.  However, how will these Americans feel when they find out that Predator drones are headed for U.S. skies?  Well, like it or not, they’re coming.  According to an article from the L.A. Times, federal authorities are increasing their efforts to license the use of drones to local law enforcement agencies and other institutions.  Contrary to popular belief, this licensed drone use is not new; since 2007, the Federal government has issued over 1,400 licenses to police, universities, and public works departments.  Not all of the authorized drones are of the Predator type–some are even as small as model airplanes.

Most Americans are not concerned with drones spying into every aspect of their lives.  They have an “I’m not doing anything wrong, so I don’t have anything to hide” attitude.  As history has taught us, all law-abiding citizens have something to fear in a government that wishes to spy on its citizens.  In the USSR, government and citizens spies victimized many citizens who were not engaging in malfeasance.  Most Americans truly have nothing to hide.  I have nothing to hide.  If the police searched my home at this very moment, they would not discover any illegal items.  No drugs.  No explosives.  No illegal guns. However, the Fourth Amendment states:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Simply, I will not consent to any search unless the police have a warrant. I also do not consent to being spied upon by a drone.  Why?  It’s my right to privacy.  The government (at any level) has no right to invade my privacy unless it has been duly authorized by a court of law.  This is the American way.

While many law enforcement agencies would only use this new technology to conduct surveillance on known criminals, others will not.  The authorized use of drones on domestic criminals will soon lead to spying on the general public.  According to the L.A. Times article, local agencies spend nearly $600 per hour to fly manned aircraft; they only pay $25 per hour to fly unmanned drones.  This significantly less expensive option will lead to significantly more unwarranted surveillance. 

If local government agencies begin using drones for surveillance purposes, how long will it be before they being using them for offensive purposes?  As already stated, certain drones are capable of firing missiles.  I fully expect that drones, armed with missiles, machine guns, or sniper rifles, will be used by local law enforcement agencies within the next decade.

Luckily, some Americans have rejected the use of drones for civilian uses.  Recently, Charlottesville, VA, placed a two-year moratorium on the use of drones by city officials.  Others jurisdictions are following suit.  The taking of pictures of private property by use of a remote control aircraft, even ones used by hobbyists, may soon be banned in Texas.    These are steps in the right direction; they are steps to enhanced liberty, and they are steps that may eventually save lives.