Secrecy News

Domestic Use of Drones is Well Underway

The use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) within the United States is certain to increase in the years to come, as a new Army policy has recently made clear.  (“Army Foresees Expanded Use of Drones in U.S. Airspace,” Secrecy News, January 19.)  But in fact the use of unmanned aircraft or drones within U.S. airspace has already advanced to a degree that is not widely recognized.

As of 2010, the Federal Aviation Administration had already issued hundreds of “certificates of authorization” (COAs) for the domestic use of drones.

“Right now, today as we sit here, we have 251 certificates of authorization for unmanned aircraft, 140 of them are DOD related,” said Hank Krakowski of the FAA at an informative Senate hearing in September 2010.  “We have not rejected or denied any DOD COAs in 2010, and we keep moving forward.”

On the other hand, Mr. Krakowski cautioned, “While UASs offer a promising new technology, the limited safety and operational data available to date does not yet support expedited or full integration into the NAS [National Airspace System]. Because current available data is insufficient to allow unfettered integration of UASs into the NAS–where the public travels every day– the FAA must continue to move forward deliberately and cautiously, in accordance with our safety mandate.”

“Unmanned aircraft systems [were] originally and primarily designed for military purposes,” he noted. “Although the technology incorporated into UASs has advanced, their safety record warrants caution. As we attempt to integrate these aircraft into the NAS, we will continue to look at any risks that UASs pose to the traveling public as well as the risk to persons or property on the ground.”

See “The Integration of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UASs) Into the National Airspace System (NAS): Fulfilling Imminent Operational and Training Requirements,” Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Technology, September 13, 2010 (published September 2011).

In the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress included language requiring a report on “the integration of unmanned aerial systems into the national airspace system” (h/t Emptywheel).

The legality of the use of drones in CIA targeted killing programs is among the topics that is explored in the brand new issue of the Journal of National Security Law and Policy on the subject of covert war.

2 thoughts on “Domestic Use of Drones is Well Underway

  1. Well, looks like no one’s ever going to say it in formal circles: Use of drones outside the US is all about bombing paupers or ‘the impoverished places of the world,’ if something less vulgar is needed. Now here’s a thought question: Do you really think those places where drones now operate freely threaten the existence of the civilian populace of the US in any meaningful way? Exclude incitements to commit violence against Americans from Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia. Exclude kidnappings by pauper/pirates unless you actually believe such things may eventually threaten people in, say, Pasadena, CA.

    What are the ramifications, not inside the US system, but worldwide of being seen as using remote-control technology to erase handfuls of paupers (and civilians who are in the wrong place at the wrong time) in place which have no substantial way of defending themselves?

    On a scale, with 1 being an image as a villain and 10 that of someone someone riding to the rescue, where do you think the current usage and future trending falls?

    Discuss where domestic drone operations are necessary -where- they aren’t already used. Exclude use on the Mexican border which also falls under chasing paupers. However, how deep into Mexican airspace do drone operate or should they be allowed to go?

    Do you think drones are necessary, for example, over southern California highways, to monitor traffic? If so, how would a drone alleviate bumper to bumper traffic during hours of peak congestion?

    If there was a natural disaster, how are drones superior to a helicopter or manned plane, for example, if looking for people stranded by rising levels of water?

    Are drones necessary to hunt down meth labs in abandoned shacks and barns in the hinterlands? Is this a new innovation/application or just using a more expensive technology to chase paupers?

    On a scale, 1 being “it’s just chasing/persecuting paupers” and 10 being, it’s “a new way to keep everyone safe”, rate what you think domestic use of drones means.

    On a scale, 1 being “it’s just wealth preservation for arms manufacturers” and 10 being “it’s a cutting edge of innovation and technology and needs to be supported,” rate what you think the desire for more drones means.

  2. I believe that using drones in the US is not a good idea, unless we were invaded by a large military force than maybe so, but to use drones in other countries I think that would be an act of war. Search and rescue the coast guard, I believe are up to the task and reliably competent, maybe sending a drone out to the high seas in front of a coast guard vessel to limit risk to the crew, might have it’s application.
    On a scale of 1 to 10, I choose 1 “it’s just chasing/persecuting paupers” loss of liberty.
    On a scale of 1 to 10, I choose 1 “it’s just wealth preservation for arms manufacturers” loss of good jobs for pilots and liberty.

Comments are closed.