Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a high-resolution camera pointed at you.

Domestic use of aerial drones by law enforcement likely to prompt privacy debate by Peter Finn in the Washington Post.

But by 2013, the FAA expects to have formulated new rules that would allow police across the country to routinely fly lightweight, unarmed drones up to 400 feet above the ground – high enough for them to be largely invisible eyes in the sky.

Such technology could allow police to record the activities of the public below with high-resolution, infrared and thermal-imaging cameras.

Obviously, there are significant privacy issues involved here (as well as safety issues). The article does a pretty good job of covering them.

Here’s what some of the drones look like.

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45 Responses to Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a high-resolution camera pointed at you.

  1. John says:

    Can’t wait till I see one of those RC Helicopters hovering next to my apartment window…

  2. kant says:

    Wow that’s the last thing we need. commando style raids sans warrant based on footage of guys carrying boxes.

    On the other hand I would love to see some PO’d geek to make a model plane specifically to take these things out. and thus a new sport was conceived: model airplane dog fights.

  3. malcolm kyle says:

    Looking for a place to hide from all those evil drones, relax, unwind, snort ‘Planet Zog X’ from a teaspoon, or simply lick Meth of a serrated edged hunting knife? Then this may be the place for you!

  4. Sick........! says:

    Humm..looks like Im going to have to re equip my RC planes to become drone killers.

  5. Cannabis says:

    Only the good guys will use them for good purposes, go see for yourself: http://www.avinc.com/

  6. claygooding says:

    I wonder what the charges would be when someone figures out how to jam/scramble their radio signals and the police start losing those hundreds of thousand dollar toys?

  7. darkcycle says:

    Them’s some weird peoples at the Hive. Is Modesto really that whacked? I’m gonna hafta visit there sometime, because I got these crazy pictures in my head of what it must be like. Modesto. Whodathunkit.

  8. Dante says:

    “They tout the technology as a tactical game-changer in scenarios such as hostage situations and high-speed chases.”

    Gee, that sounds a lot like the justification for SWAT teams (“we only use them for the most dangerous situations”), and the next thing you know the “authorities” are using SWAT teams to take out jaywalkers, deadbeat dads and small time gamblers. None of whom are armed and all of whom end up dead.

    Mark my words, one day a passenger airline filled with people will hit one of these things and crash to the ground, killing or maiming hundreds. The police response:

    It was an isolated incident. The police just want to protect the public. We are only doing our jobs. We had to operate these drones in order to preserve national security. Only criminals oppose having drones overhead 24 hours a day. We can’t comment because it is still being investigated.

    And on and on and on and on. Just like wrong-door raids. I wonder how long it will be before they start arming the drones with missiles?

  9. kant says:


    wasn’t that the same claimed used for tasers? “They’re only meant as a non-lethal alternative to firearms”

    now they’re used at the slightest whim.

    They probably won’t arm them with missiles but I could definitely see them armed with tear gas and flash bangs. Use one those in the west/southwest region during the dry season and you have a perfect recipe for a sizable wild fire.

  10. Servetus says:

    Nude sunbathers beware!

    More on aerial police surveillance and different types of drones can be found in an article at TPMMuckraker.

    The mayor of crime-capitol Ogden, Utah, wants his community to buy an unmanned blimp.

  11. Duncan20903 says:

    Shhh, be vewy vewy quiet, I’m hunting dwones… hehehehehehehehe

    I’m so looking forward to seeing the first one shot out of the sky I may have to take up the hobby. I never could see the point in shooting clay discs out of the sky, but this sounds like good, clean fun!

    Indoor pot will suddenly be going up in price no doubt. I did watch an episode of CSI:NY this season where the antagonists were “high tech” burglars who had little infrared LED devices which made them unrecordable by security cameras.

    The Calvo v Prince Georges County Maryland Nazis lawsuit is getting ready to start.


    Yes, I agree that it’s a shame this is spurred by the death of a couple of dogs rather than one of the incidents where human life was ended for no reason. On the other hand I’m glad it’s going to court and will be ecstatic if the Calvos manage to put the PG County budget in the red for 2011.

  12. warren says:

    They look like more fun than skeet.

  13. Duncan20903 says:

    …I would love to see some PO’d geek to make a model plane specifically to take these things out. and thus a new sport was conceived: model airplane dog fights.

    thus a new sport was conceived: model airplane dog fights. I wonder what the charges would be when someone figures out how to jam/scramble their radio signals and the police start losing those hundreds of thousand dollar toys?

    I’m so looking forward to seeing the first one shot out of the sky I may have to take up the hobby.

    They look like more fun than skeet.

    Sounds like we got us a crowd of antisocial malcontents here.

    You know it’s kind of hard to find like-minded people when you’re strange.

    No particular message, I’ve just got a warm fuzzy and thought I’d share.

    Someday we’re going to have to have a social. Maybe we could go out hunting drones when they’re in season.

  14. tintguy says:

    I think I’ll try the catch and release angle of the sport. It will be more fun and If I get caught hopefully the charges won’t be as severe. You know how the children get when you break their precious little toys.

  15. Duncan20903 says:

    Maybe swap out the transmitter so you can send them reruns of Kim Jong-il as Batman, or something as equally vapid?

  16. darkcycle says:

    Dutch Parliment to be handed petition to legalize drugs:

  17. darkcycle says:

    How about just generally confuse them. Go out to a border area with two trucks, one full of empty boxes, one empty. Then we just make a fire brigade and begin loading the empty boxes from one truck into another, and back again, endlessly for about two hours, just to get ’em good and confused. Then we drive off and film the traffic stops for YouTube. Could be hours of diversion.

  18. darkcycle says:

    And while we’re loading them, we’ll all wear suglasses, sombrerro’s and Panch Villa mustaches. What fun! Duncan…me too.

    • Duncan20903 says:

      Well you acquitted yourself, I was going to leave this as a response to your first post with the box swapping

      With all due respect, B-O-R-I-N-G!

      Coffins, with mannequins, totally obvious with more than a glimpse but we never give them any more than that…


      So CSI:Miami’s last episode was about the murder of a roller derby girl. After the culprit was arrested the roller derby people had another roller derby girl roller skate around the rink a few times holding up the murdered girls jersey as some kind of roller derby last rites/death memorial. The girl who carried the dead skater’s jersey was wearing number 420.

      I hate What they’ve done with H. He’s purposefully assaulted 2 crims so far this year. The first one was a parole officer gone bad but the last one was just a standard issue fictional crime drama scumbag. I guess I was ready to let it go that he was so offended by a ‘good’ guy turned ‘bad’ but this last one was just plain wrong. After 8 full seasons they turn him into an evil POS meting out extrajudicial punishment to those he particularly dislikes? I was just feeling good about them passive aggressively featuring the number 420 in the previous scene too.

  19. darkcycle says:

    IRS may be getting ready to target legal Cali Dispensaries:

    • Duncan20903 says:

      Didn’t I post that here within the last week? Hmm, no, it seems I wrote it but never hit the submit button. I did post it as a comment on Jon Gettman’s recent screed in High Times that you linked a few days ago.


      Yeah, I think that Mr. Obama is going to close down every working dispensary in America without any public animus toward the administration. They’ve already got people conned into believing they’re going to leave dispensaries “in compliance” with State law alone. They’ve got people conned into believing that means they have to be non-profits. Auditing and sending a bill to a “tax cheat” will bother only a few shitheads like myself who know about how non-profits are actually taxed as well as are familiar with the arcana of section 280(e) of the tax code. If all the other dispensaries voluntarily close their doors no one complains. Well played Mr. Obama, well played. I’m laying my king down, checkmate is yours.

      • darkcycle says:

        I don’t know, Duncan you may have. Seems I remember it from somewhere, but it is up on MAP’s website with today’s date, so I figured it should go up. These pieces do sometimes show up repeatedly though…

  20. Nick says:

    Another good reason to flip the bird towards the sky.

  21. darkcycle says:

    More from Mother Jones:
    C’mon Duncan. Seems great fun to me with or without the moustaches….

  22. darkcycle says:

    Wow. Old darkcycle’s batteries have been charged. I’m burnin’ them up out there today. All I kin’ say is “Wheeee-Haaaaa”

  23. ezrydn says:

    So much for the De-MOCK-cracy!

  24. vicky vampire says:

    Ogden Utah has blimp with camera,similar to drones.
    I do not think it up and operational yet.
    We are going the way of England soon a camera on every corner,
    and then some.

  25. stevo says:

    Big brother is watching. Enjoy whats left of your privacy because it will soon be just a fond memory. Total surveillance, cradle to grave, is the sad future. We voted down the intersection cameras here in Houston months ago, but they are still up. They say they’re no longer sending computerized auto-citations, but they will never take the cameras down. Coming soon… implantable chips that monitor and record your every move. Surely no one would mind unless they have something to hide, right?

  26. darkcycle says:

    The only upside to a Britain-like surveillance system is it’s impossible to download and collate that much information. Not enough human operators to prevent issues, only to follow up after the fact. Up to thirty percent of the surveillance cameras in London are down at any given time. They can’t even keep up with the vandals (civil liberty heroes)destroying them. Really, it’s a fat lot of good it’s done them.

  27. denmark says:

    This has no doubt been going on for years already behind our backs.

    One would want to give this some private inner thought. There’s too many things that shouldn’t be written down on the internet. The moment in time will come when pertinent information is only spoken and spread the old-fashioned way, by word of mouth.
    No doubt there are good people out there seeking a solution to this particularly unpleasant situation that’s upon us.

    What really gets me in the end though is that they keep pushing the envelope. They keep stretching that rubber band.

  28. darkcycle says:

    Look, the unsustainability of our present system has been obvious on so many levels now that there are really only two camps left: those who are desperately trying to put in place systems to maintain their control just that little bit longer, and hoping that THEY are not the ones left without a chair when the music stops….and the rest of us.

  29. darkcycle says:

    Taking a break. Watching two Blue Herons hunting for tadpoles in the flooded field across the street. I love the Pacific NorthWest.

  30. tyrone says:

    wow technology is getting better every day..

  31. Sick........! says:

    1984 anyone? 1776 ring a bell?

    • Duncan20903 says:

      George Orwell was a prophet, but he was lousy with a calendar. 1984 was 26 or 27 years ago. My sister got married in 1981 and will have her 30th anniversary later this year.

      1776? Wasn’t that when 56 old white men wrote and signed a very eloquently worded “Dear George” letter at the 1st annual 4th of July picnic?

  32. vicky vampire says:

    Another example of never ending assault of Big Brother misuse.

  33. Windy says:

    Re: the surveillance state
    This guy says we are getting both 1984 and Brave New World:
    2011: A Brave New Dystopia

  34. kxxt says:

    How long do you think unmanned planes will be owned by just the government? Just about every technology invented, nobody has a monopoly on it for long. 25 years ago Google Earth would have been considered CIA-level spy technology, but look at us now, we even have Street View! I can see some rich “helicopter parents” becoming “drone parents” to make sure they know where their teens are at all times. In the near future, maybe drug smugglers will start using unmanned drones to parachute kilos of cocaine and heroin across the border or spy on law enforcement.

  35. claygooding says:

    I just started investing in eco friendly shielding for my yard,,,,the kind you can’t see through but sunlite can,,,,,that ought to bring on a raid.

  36. claygooding says:

    kxxt,,,,much cheaper to slingshot kilo bricks of whatever over anywhere they choose. Thanks to Mythbusters for that
    one,,,,of course they were trying to slingshot “Buster”
    over the wall but the whole time I was watching it,I was seeing a much smaller slingshot attached to a pu bed and slinging kilo sized or bigger packages in any location on that border.
    PS: Mythbusters decided it was myth that they were using a super slingshot on immigrants,but they were getting the distance with their s/s,only no safe landings. Kilos of drugs don’t need the safe landings.

  37. vicky vampire says:

    Here is the link for the direct link on Washington examiner article I had posted above. On misuse of Cameras in Washinton DC area.

  38. Duncan20903 says:

    kxxt, I’ve heard of people using those radio controlled modern model airplane that I’ve seen people playing with from time to time. It makes them sound so much less dark and threatening when I think of them as modified toy airplanes. Stop that! We’re scared of Darth Vader not some annoying kid that flies one of those things around the neighborhood. Why does it cost $100k to stick a $79 trail cam on a $249 toy airplane if we call it a drone? Government procurement agents just won’t pay up for it without the Empire Strikes Back mystique attached, or does it really cost that much to make them silent?

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