Prepare to have a drone as your neighbor. A new Defense Department report dated April 2012 and published online late last week by the Federation of American Scientists indicates that 110 potential bases for drone operations are in the planning stage.

Military installations in 39 states, from Georgia to California, could support all kinds of drones, from the deadly, missile-capable Predators to the next-generation surveillance Global Hawks.

The Pentagon now has some 7,000 aerial drones, compared with fewer than 50 a decade ago, and asked Congress for nearly $5 billion for drones in the 2012 budget. The U.S. military plans to add another 2,076 by 2017 according to the report.  Click here to read the chilling Defense Department report.

The following map depicts the approximate locations of current and planned Department of Defense unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) activities inside the U.S.

 

As reported by The New York Times…
A new federal law , signed by President Obama on Feb. 14, 2012, compels the Federal Aviation Administration to allow drones to be used for all sorts of commercial endeavors — from selling real estate and dusting crops, to monitoring oil spills and wildlife, even shooting Hollywood films. Local police and emergency services will also be freer to send up their own drones.

More and more police forces are exploring the potential of unmanned drones for covert aerial surveillance.

But while businesses, and drone manufacturers especially, are celebrating the opening of the skies to these unmanned aerial vehicles, the law raises new worries about how much detail the drones will capture about lives down below — and what will be done with that information. Safety concerns like midair collisions and property damage on the ground are also an issue.
American courts have generally permitted surveillance of private property from public airspace. But scholars of privacy law expect that the likely proliferation of drones will force Americans to re-examine how much surveillance they are comfortable with.

 

The Nano Hummingbird surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft developed by AeroVironment, Inc. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Under the new law, the F.A.A. must allow police and first responders to fly drones under 4.4 pounds, as long as they keep them under an altitude of 400 feet and meet other requirements. The agency must also allow for “the safe integration” of all kinds of drones into American airspace, including those for commercial uses, by Sept. 30, 2015. And it must come up with a plan for certifying operators and handling airspace safety issues, among other rules.

The new law, part of a broader financing bill for the F.A.A., came after intense lobbying by drone makers and potential customers. In February 2011, researchers unveiled a hummingbird drone, built by the firm Aero Vironment for the secretive Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which can fly at 11 miles per hour and perch on a windowsill. One of the smallest drones in use on the battlefield is the three-foot-long Raven, which troops in Afghanistan toss by hand like a model airplane to peer over the next hill.

 

Citizens Alarmed…

There’s concern among the American people that government and private-sector drones will be used to gather information on them without their knowledge. They fear that by giving drones greater access to U.S. skies moves the nation closer to a surveillance society in which our every move is monitored, tracked, recorded and scrutinized by the authorities.  That fear was echoed by the American Civil Liberties Unionin a report last December.

The dragonfly drones with in-built micro-cameras, could revolutionize spying missions and rescue operations.

An ACLU lobbyist, Chris Calabrese, said that when he speaks to audiences about privacy issues, drones are what “everybody just perks up over. People are interested in the technology, they are interested in the implications and they worry about being under surveillance from the skies,” he said.
In another report titled Air Force Policy Directive (AFPD) 14-1 Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (IRS) Planning, Resources, and Operations is this statement “Collected imagery may incidentally include US persons or private property without consent,”.  It goes on to say that the Air Force has “a period not to exceed 90 days” to get rid of any collected information  while it determines “whether that information may be collected under the provisions” of a Pentagon directive that authorizes limited domestic spying.

One has to wonder if the current administration believes that everyday Americans are the enemy and to ask since the use of this technology is so invasive, why are our borders are still unsecured.