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FAA Bill Authorizes Surveillance Drones Over US 294

fyngyrz writes "Congress passed a bill this week that makes it easier for the government to fly unmanned spy planes in U.S. airspace. From the article: 'The FAA Reauthorization Act, which President Obama is expected to sign, also orders the Federal Aviation Administration to develop regulations for the testing and licensing of commercial drones by 2015. Privacy advocates say the measure will lead to widespread use of drones for electronic surveillance by police agencies across the country and eventually by private companies as well.'"
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FAA Bill Authorizes Surveillance Drones Over US

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  • Re:Don't worry (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WrongSizeGlass ( 838941 ) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @09:23AM (#38980325)

    If you aren't doing anything illegal, you really have nothing to hide. The world will be a safer place.

    I can't imagine the headache this will cause for air traffic controllers. They'll have these little blips on their radar ... and if it's a small airport these things could make it less safe for local air traffic.

  • by FauxPasIII ( 75900 ) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @09:24AM (#38980335)

    > Put the same equipment in a manned aircraft and it's a snoozer.

    Interesting point. I guess on some level, we're hoping that with a manned aircraft, an egregiously and obviously illegal order to target U.S. citizens might be disobeyed or even made public.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 09, 2012 @09:32AM (#38980407)

    Oh you poor fool, Ron Paul is one of "them" as well.

  • Re:Don't worry (Score:5, Insightful)

    by michelcolman ( 1208008 ) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @09:34AM (#38980421)
    I hope these things are at least carrying transponders so they even make a blip on the radar at all. Without a transponder they'll be invisible to ATC and also won't trigger TCAS avoidance manoeuvers from aircraft. I don't know what altitude those things fly at, and whether or not there is any contact between the operators and air traffic controllers, but I hope they'll at least try to keep some kind of separation with normal aircraft.
  • by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @09:46AM (#38980519) Journal
    This in itself is not unreasonable. I can see many potential legitimate uses for pilotless drones both for law enforcement and such things as disaster recovery. In itself there's nothing wrong with this law.

    What is unreasonable is law enforcements desire to spy on everyone all the time. This is something that needs to be addressed, but it needs to be addressed directly. Not by attacking legislation that happens to enable it. We need to fight for legislation that explicitly sets limits on where the police are allowed to watch us.
  • by whovian ( 107062 ) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @09:50AM (#38980547)

    That's just the first layer. Now you also have names, perhaps also personal and social connections because you have a Facebook or similar account. It could be interesting for sociological studies and literally knowing who your audience is. The police state would be thrilled, too.

  • by gambino21 ( 809810 ) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @09:54AM (#38980583)

    Seems this is not a cost-effective way to catch some bad guys.

    The real goal of this is not to save money. The goal is to make money for the drone companies, and to score political points for the politician that can say they value national security.

  • by michelcolman ( 1208008 ) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @09:58AM (#38980653)
    That's because most automation failures are corrected by pilots. Electronic components fail regularly, which is usually no big deal as long as there are humans to fix things and fly manually if necessary. If every autopilot failure would result in a crash, there would be multiple crashes every day.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 09, 2012 @10:01AM (#38980687)

    This is what gets me about my countrymen: they get all bent out of shape and spew shit like "small government", "freedom" and whatnot over TAXES - one of the lowest rates in the industrialized World, but when it comes to government surveillance and monitoring under the PATRIOT Act, no problemo. If you do nothing wrong, there's nothing to worry about is the attitude among John Q. Public. Outside of the Slashdot crowd here, most people that I know at least, think there's nothing wrong about the Patriot Act. I keeps them "safe" after all from those Muslims that want to kill us over our fredom and make us live under Sharia law. You'll never see a Teabagger dress up as Franklin or Jefferson saying "Abolish our police state!" Nah uh. Not gonna happen.

    Americans don't know what Freedom is, I'm afraid. Most of us think Freedom is no taxes.

    A person is smart. People are stupid.

  • Im all for this (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RenderSeven ( 938535 ) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @10:03AM (#38980723) long as civilians get to use drones to watch the police, members of congress, etc. You know, the stuff we're supposed to do in a democracy.
  • Re:Don't worry (Score:4, Insightful)

    by g0bshiTe ( 596213 ) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @10:09AM (#38980777)
    You won't have to do anything illegal. Say one day you are going about your normal routine, one of these drones is flying overhead and you do something in view of it that is deemed "suspicious behavior". Due to one act that was perceived as suspicious you get your very own drone following your full time. Sooner or later you will do something that compounds your situation.

    You are right, the world would be a safer place, and I see no opportunity for abuse of these.
  • by michelcolman ( 1208008 ) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @10:11AM (#38980807)
    So far I haven't had any fellow pilots fail on me, but I can't begin to count the number of failures of navigation systems, autopilots, etcetera that I've experienced. The automation does usually work much more precisely than humans, but it lacks common sense and sometimes just completely fails. That's when things get interesting for us pilots. The industry is not even close to beginning to consider getting rid of pilots or even going down to a single pilot in airliners. Except the military with their drones which, guess what, do crash frequently. For them, the benefits outweigh the cost of losing the occasional piece of equipment.
  • Re:Don't worry (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gideon Wells ( 1412675 ) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @10:45AM (#38981231)

    Paraphrasing Scott Adams from "The Dilbert Future", written in the mid-early nineties:

    "In the future we will have mechanisms to observe and convict 100% of all crime. We will also quickly learn that 100% of the population is guilty of some crime."

  • EMF pulse guns (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wytcld ( 179112 ) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @10:49AM (#38981265) Homepage

    Please sell me an EMF pulse gun to use against any drone flying in my airspace.

    BTW, what is a property owner's airspace? How high from the ground does "No Trespassing" apply? It has to be more than just a few inches from the ground. How much more?

  • Spending (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 09, 2012 @11:20AM (#38981663)

    Spending is fundamentally different when you're spending other people's money. When you spend your own money (for example you own a business), you view every dollar as an investment and make damn sure every dollar is accounted for. When your spending doesn't bring a return, you stop.

    In the business of government, on the other hand, the people spending the money aren't spending their own money. They don't care where it comes from or where it goes -- what matters is that it passes through their hands, giving them a chance to exploit that cash flow for personal gain. The rules are different, the outcome is different, and the people making the decisions are different. They are there for personal gain, same as the private business owner -- but their business strategy is entirely different. Their profits don't come from making an honest return on every dollar. Their profits aren't tied to success or failure, but rather how much political leverage they control with those dollars.

    When the bureaucrat's spending fails to bring a return, this isn't a reason to stop. This is a justification for more spending.

    You're not in the business of government, are you?

  • by d3ac0n ( 715594 ) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @02:01PM (#38984449)

    And yet, every day we are witness to and victims of the depredations of unelected bureaucrats who trample our civil liberties and freedoms in clear violation of the Constitution and nothing whatsoever is done about it save said bureaucrats having a good chuckle about it over coffee.

    Also, if the task of electing that many officials is a problem, then perhaps we could do with an order of magnitude LESS officials. Very few bureaucracies are actually critical to the function of good government. Most could be partly or wholly done away with and nobody would notice, now or in the future.

    Smaller, cheaper, leaner and less intrusive government is something every freedom-loving person should want. Those who want MORE government invariably want to use it against YOU.

  • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday February 09, 2012 @03:49PM (#38986491) Journal

    So your answer is to just let the corps do what they want without even having to bother with the bribes? you DO realize that with a jug of milk at $4 the corps are pushing the conservatives to do away with the minimum wage even though thanks to the feds rampant inflation of the money what they are being paid now is worth less than it was in 1963? Or look at what happened with the banks after Glass Stegall ended, banks now treat Wall street like Las Vegas with nicer outfits.

    I'd say the ONLY thing we agree on is a smaller fed because i want that power back in the hands of the states so that We, The People can have control again. But we don't need less regulation we need more regulation and the ones we have now strictly enforced. We also need to replace "free" trade which is anything but with China manipulating its currency and replace it with fair trade, and we need to punish corps that have sent 42,400 factories [] overseas since 2001. here are a few more facts for you, here is the source [] and please remember that as with glass Stegall in the past 20 years the government has been gutting regulations left and right so by your accounts it should be great here since the businesses are free to do as they will, instead we have:

    1.-43.6 Americans living in poverty, the highest number in the entire 51 years of record keeping, 2.-4 million more join them a year. 3.-In 2000 11 percent were living in poverty, by 2009 that had jumped to 14 percent. 3.- The US poverty rate is now the third worse on the entire planet 4.-More than 50 million are now without health insurance, so they will be going to our ERs and dragging down the system. 5.-Now there are more than 40 million Americans on food stamps and these numbers are two years old, its even worse now. 6.-And for something closer to us geeks manufacturing in the computer industry, our tech that is supposed to save us, is now actually lower than it was in 1975.

    Look at the numbers for yourself. Since Reagan we've had one corporate ass kissing POTUS after another and while the regulations have either disappeared or are simply not enforced the businesses haven't used that to become "job creators" unless you count jobs in Bangalore and Beijing. Hell the "job czar" that Nobama hired not only didn't pay any taxes with his megacorp he actually got 1.2 billion in rebates back only to use that money to close one of the last factories they had in the USA and send it to India. he even had the gall to brag "These aren't the low skill low wages jobs i'm sending, these are the good high wage jobs. We're doing this because India is where the money is and we want the jobs to be where there are customers". We Mr Prick CEO maybe if you and your friends hadn't systematically gutted our manufacturing base over the past 30 years we might actually HAVE money to buy your products, ever think of that?

    No my friend we need to drop the hammer on these corps and when they offshore throw their CEOs and their families out with it, let them live in China and breathe through a mask. After all its good enough for their employees right?

Variables don't; constants aren't.