Do you live in a drone zone?


What’s that buzzing through the sky? It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s… a drone aircraft? If you live in one of 81 cities across the US, you might be seeing drone aircraft flying overhead much more before long. The FAA has just released an updated version of the drone application list, as requested under a Freedom of Information Act action from the EFF. Is your hometown on it?

Most of the list isn’t a real surprise. There are a number of universities that are testing drones, government departments, and a ton of police forces and sheriff’s offices. Some of the more unexpected applicants include the Barona Band of Mission Indians Risk Management Office and the Ohio Department of Transportation.

FAA authorization is necessary because of the potential that drones could interfere with other aircraft. The authorities need to know where drones are operating so that no one gets in a nasty accident.

As for what all those drones are doing up there, that’s a point of contention. Drones overseas get a lot of attention whenever there is a controversial attack on suspected militants in Pakistan or Afghanistan. The drones in the US are often of different designs, and do not carry weapons. Instead, these craft are bristling with multiple cameras — IR, heat sensing, the whole nine yards.

There is definitely an issue of privacy here. Police forces having air units is nothing new, but drones are cheap enough to operate that they can be in the air for long stretches of time doing surveillance that a helicopter wouldn’t be suitable for. Law enforcement in these areas will have unprecedented ability to track individuals across the city on a whim.

The EFF is hoping that the publishing of the list will encourage residents to ask local authorities about their drone programs. The argument can certainly be made that drones can increase public safety, but the potential for abuse is vast as well. Check out the full list of drone-zones on the EFF site.



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