The Arlington Police Department recently got permission from the FAA to use the two small, battery-operated drones they purchased last year using grant money from Homeland Security. Presumably, the drones will mostly be used to hover over Jerry Jones while he's at work, clipping him in the head with a wing every time he tries to make any football decisions whatsoever.
As Patrick Walker of the Star-Telegram tweeted a little while ago, Arlington PD now has a nifty new webpage to answer all your questions about how the teeny tiny drones might be used. Only, don't call them drones, please. They've now been christened the department's "Aviation Unit," and they definitely won't impact your privacy, pinky-swear.
So, what's the plan for this adorable, battery-operated Aviation Unit? The drones will be used for "a variety of public safety applications," the site says, "such as helping us find missing persons, clear major traffic crashes more quickly, aid in assessing damages and losses from natural disasters like floods and tornadoes, and take forensic photographs of complex crime scenes. Our helicopters will NOT be used in car pursuits, issue traffic citations, carry weapons or be used for routine patrols and surveillance."
The FAQ also says that the drones can only be flown in daylight hours, "less than 400 feet above the ground," and within the line of sight of the officer flying the thing. Also, it adds, "The police department is not allowed to fly directly over crowds such as football games or parades," or north of Interstate 30, near DFW Airport.
Moreover, Arlington PD says, "your privacy will not be impacted. Maintaining an individual's privacy and protecting the civil liberties of all persons is of paramount importance to the department. The Arlington Police Department is bound by federal law and the laws of the State of Texas that direct the use of helicopters of all types and sizes, as it relates to the privacy of citizens." If a search warrant would be required to look in a backyard, say, it'll be required to use the drone, they add. "Again, our helicopter will not be used for arbitrary surveillance and must comply with all federal regulations and laws."
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The thing about that, though, is there's not a lot of state or federal regulation around drone use just yet, something that's alarmed civil liberties groups like the ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation, which released the list of FAA-approved, drone-using entities that included Arlington.
As the ACLU just wrote about yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee had a hearing on drones this week , in which Democrats, Republicans and unhinged Communist-hunters alike voiced serious privacy concerns about domestic use.
The ACLU wants better legislation to regulate drone use in U.S. airspace; one of the bills they're backing is from Texas Republican Congressman Ted Poe, the "Preserving American Privacy Act".
Unless it's Jerry Jones' privacy, obviously. Keep an eye on him.