In the United States, warrantless searches are restricted under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution which provides that, “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.”

But what if the search could occur overhead without taking a single step onto the property of the suspect? In North Dakota an arrest was made of a local farmer who had been accused of stealing cattle. A standoff ensued when police came to question the suspect so they used a drone to scope out the situation and locate the cattle – all without a warrant. Rodney Brossart, the arrested farmer, sued the state, in part because of the cop’s use of a drone. But a district judge ruled that the Predator’s service in the matter was legal.

“Just like with the NSA spying, one judge says it’s constitutional, another says it’s unconstitutional,” said  Judge Andrew Napolitano

The FAA Reauthorization Act, which was passed by Congress in February 2012 – gave the green light for government agencies to fly unmanned spy planes in U.S. airspace. The legislation will allow drones to be operated by government agencies as well as businesses sharing the same space as commercial airplanes by the year 2015 and industry giant Amazon is already working toward incorporating drone deliveries, aka Amazon Prime Air, of some of it’s smaller items. According to Amazon “the goal of this new delivery system is to get packages into customers’ hands in 30 minutes or less using unmanned aerial vehicles.”


Amazon drone

But do the benefits counter the negatives of living in a world where privacy has ran inside and locked the door? Is private property to be plundered on a whim? As the technology grows more popular and smaller in size – as it’s destined to do – will the devices be allowed to fly in through open windows without a warrant – as long as it doesn’t land on my belongings? If not – where is the line between where it can and can’t go? The sash or the drapes? Will it be armed with firepower? If I damage it am I liable to pay restitution?

Steven Aftergood, who heads the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists – said he was concerned that“There are serious policy questions on the horizon about privacy and surveillance, by both government agencies and commercial entities.”

According to a report published in 2012 by Walter Hickey of Business Insider – law enforcement groups from huge city departments to county sheriffs were all enchanted by the idea of drones. Hickey speculates the market potential is  huge and it’s expected to grow by a billion dollars between now and 2016 – so cops with drones are here. To be accurate – they’ve been here.

AeroVironment Inc., or AV, which has been producing various lines of small unmanned aircraft for the military for years is looking to expand into civilian law enforcement. One of AeroVironment’s consultants is a former Glendale Police sergeant who now works with the Grand Forks, NORTH DAKOTA Sheriff’s Department, one of a growing number of agencies in the country experimenting with drones.

AV, which is based in Monrovia, held a news conference to show off its latest drone, the Qube, which weighs five pounds, is only three feet in length, can fly as high as 500 feet, and can stay airborne for 40 minutes.

The drone can take off and land vertically and can quietly hover over a location focusing its dual high-resolution color and thermal cameras and transmitting those images to a screen on the ground.

qube cop drone

AV Qube Drone & Controller

These Police Surveillance Drones Could Be Watching You Right Now

California lawmakers are considering legislation that would keep police agencies and other government entities from using drones to conduct warrantless surveillance in the Golden State. The bill would require law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant to use drone surveillance, except in some emergency cases, and that those agencies notify the public when they intend to use drones. The data those drones collect would have to be destroyed within six months.


Police officer in Colorado preparing to launch a surveillance helicopter drone

For anyone still on-the-fence about the US police state – we are living it. From the NSA collecting personal data on millions of Americans to the President reserving the authority to kill Americans on American soil or overseas by use of drones in the event he or his Attorney General deem a person a terrorist – to cops in full tactical riot gear monitoring every inch of our lives with unmanned flying machines armed with high tech cameras(among other ‘tools’) – there is no denying that this is a police state.

What exactly is a police state, some at this stage of enlightenment will begin to ponder. The inhabitants of a police state experience restrictions on their freedom to express or communicate political or other views, which are subject to police monitoring or enforcement. Political control may be exerted by means of a police force which operates outside the boundaries normally imposed by a constitutional state.

Boundaries which – at one point in our history – required a warrant for search and seizure as imposed by the US Constitution. Boundaries which once required a judge and jury to convene prior to a US citizen being mugged or murdered by a government official/group or agency – as imposed by the US Constitution.

Boundaries which are being evaded by modernized local, state and federal agencies on a daily basis as technology allows them more and more to push the envelope of what’s legal, ethical and constitutional.

Perhaps it’s time for average Americans to begin enforcing their own ‘no fly zones.’