For the moment, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has blocked the use of unmanned aircraft for surveillance purposes, due to concern about clogging the skies with flying robots that crash more often than piloted aircraft.
The folks at the FAA are being pressured to lighten up and permit the use of drones by government agencies. The result of that pressure is HR 658, which authorizes appropriations for the FAA through fiscal 2014, and buried in it are the provisions to begin a “drone-apalooza” with 30,000 unmanned aircraft.
According to Jay Stanley of the ACLU, “This bill would push the nation willy-nilly toward an era of aerial surveillance, without any steps to protect the traditional privacy that Americans have always enjoyed and expected.”
Among other things, HR 658 will require the FAA to streamline its process within 90 days for government agencies to operate drones. The bill requires the FAA to allow government public safety agencies to operate drones weighing 4.4 pounds or less, as long as certain other conditions are met. The agency will be required to establish a pilot program within six months to create half a dozen test zones for integrating drones “into the national airspace system.” (Read more)