16FEB12 UAV over ND Reply

Just got a reply back about my 12DEC11 inquiry to Representative Don Young's office regarding the use of an RQ-9 in North Dakota: http://trendnemesis.blogspot.com/2011/12/12dec11-uavs-and-local-sheriffs.html

Good news is that it wasn't a violation of the Posse Comitatus Act or USC Title 18.  Bad news is that US DHS isn't just using UAVs to guard the border, but also to monitor activity within the US.

Right off the bat, we do need to establish clear policy regarding the use of UAV's in the US by law enforcement.  Mainly, all the standards to protect our 4th Amendment rights that are applied to all other air frames (helicopters and plans equipped with Forward Looking Infra-Red sensors) are also observed with UAV's so equipped.  Not only should there be established LIMITS to the use of FLIR in regards to protecting private citizens from un-Warranted government intrusion, but also limits to the use of the radar systems used when observing private property.

We face a reality of increasing technological advances in aircraft technology.  That doesn't mean that new laws need to be on the books, as most of the laws on the books especially in the Bill of Rights apply no matter what the technology.  Just as the 1st Amendment applies to the Internet in spite of being written in the 18th Century, so to does the 4th Amendment apply to the use of FLIR and SAR (Signature Aperture Radar).  If anything needs to be written into the books, its policy that limits agencies from abusing the new technology.

Another concern that the greater use of UAVs (I firmly refuse to feed USAF Pilot ego by calling them Remotely Piloted Vehicles) is the air traffic aspect of using un-manned aircraft that limit the situational awareness of the operator.  In theater military airspace control procedures address this concern in a very good manner and simply keep aircraft out of blocks of airspace or altitudes in which UAVs are operating, or they use covert lighting (NVG detectable) devices so that specialized mission aircraft (USSOCOM, name your alphabet soup covert military and CIA unit of choice) don't run into them.  NVG detectable lighting is great, when most of the aircraft that might run into them have pilots with the right equipment.  This is not something acceptable in domestic airspace during peace time by any stretch of the imagination (unless of course they have it in for Civil Aviation).  Neither is blocking off large portions of airspace.  Dense urban areas that rely on "Flight for Life" helicopters, police helicopters (which might be replaced by UAVs), along with News helicopters (again, they might even be replaced by UAVs) are going to experience the worst airspace issues and have the highest probability of mid-air collision.

We already have crowded skies, and problems with aircraft coming far too close to each other with them manned.  Adding UAVs to the mix in a lot of areas outside guarding our borders is going to add to the problem and not solve a damn thing.

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haveduffelwilltravel said...
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haveduffelwilltravel said...

I've known the DHS has had predators in North Dakota for a while now for use in Border Operations. I've never worked with FLIR before so I can't speak to that, but I do know the usefulness of having thermal cameras to track bad guys at night. That being said, I'm not a fan of being spied upon. I would like to see law enforcement agencies being required to get a warrant before conducting surveillance of private property. But I see no problem with using UAVs for pursuits, tracking subjects, traffic etc. I believe they are definitely the way of the future (although admittedly I'm a little biased). They are less expensive, less expensive to maintain, and provide less risk (due to the fact there are no pilots lives at risk and if they crash they are much smaller than manned aircraft) which should lower insurance. There are dozens of fields which would benefit from their use. As for the airspace crowding issue, that is going to require someone higher up on the food chain than me to figure out. My first idea would be to block off certain altitudes for UAVs and publish NOTAMs. I know from experience that there has never (to my knowledge) been an issue with UAVs failing to meet guidelines that are published, but private manned aircraft do it all the time. They are the ones who need to be policed. UAVs are going to be part of the future and the longer we wait to implement their use, the further behind we become.