On February 19, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a fact sheet reporting that it has granted 1,428 drone licenses to entities in the United States. Of those, 327 are designated active.
There is no legal restriction on who can request a license to fly a drone and the FAA statement claims that typical purposes for the unmanned vehicles include “law enforcement, firefighting, border patrol, disaster relief, search and rescue, military training, and other government operational missions.”
The FAA is hurrying to get all the licenses processed in order to meet the September 2015 deadline set by Congress for releasing the drones over the United States.
While there is no consensus on the number of drones that soon will begin buzzing over cities and towns in the United States, estimates range from 10,000 to 30,000 of the powerful surveillance craft may begin their patrol in the domestic skies.
Of all the licenses approved by the FAA, the majority have been granted to local and state law enforcement.
For example, in Alabama, correspondents on the scene reported seeing drones flying over the site where a five-year-old boy was being held captive in a bunker by a 65-year-old man. According to a report of the situation filed by the Los Angeles Times, “authorities refused to say who was operating the AeroVironment drone....”
Perhaps the most troubling use by law enforcement of a drone was the case of Rodney Brossart.
In 2011, Brossart became one of the first American citizens (if not the first) arrested by local law enforcement with the use of a drone owned by a federal agency. Police launched this loaner after Brossart held the police at bay for over 16 hours.
It is likely Brossart’s case that inspired Becker to put legislative brakes on the runaway zeal of law enforcement to get these all-seeing eyes airborne.
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