Saturday, December 08, 2012

Intelligence Gathering Military Drones Stalk American Skies.

EFF posted several thousand pages of new drone license records and a new map (above)
that tracks the location of drone flights across the United States.

Military drones--Predators and the larger, more powerful Reapers, capable of both spying on people and firing missiles at them--used to track terrorists or insurgents--or anyone who happens to be in range--
MQ-9 Reaper (Remotely Piloted Vehicles) operated by
ground controllers.
Pre-programmed flight plans allow
other UAVs to operate autonomously
in Afghanistan and America's shadowy counter-terrorism campaigns in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, the Philippines and the new epicenter of America’s shadow war in East Africa have also been stalking  U.S.skies.  Newly released documents show U.S. remote-controlled warplanes by the Air Force, Marine Corps and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for the first time thanks to the result of the Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF) Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Of course, the EFF waited over a year and a half for the FAA to release their records, and that's not even half of what they requested from the agency.  That might take another year and a half.
"The records show that the Air Force has been testing out a bunch of different drone types, from the smaller, hand-launched Raven, Puma and Wasp drones designed by Aerovironment in Southern California, to the much larger Predator and Reaper drones responsible for civilian and foreign military deaths abroad. The Marine Corps is also testing drones, though it chose to redact so much of the text from its records that we still don't know much about its programs.
Remember, the U.S. military doesn’t need an FAA license to fly drones-- intelligence gathering systems--over its own military bases but it does need a license to fly in the national airspace.
"A white S.U.V. traveling along a highway adjacent to the base came into the cross hairs in the center of the screen and was tracked as it headed south along the desert road. When the S.U.V. drove out of the picture, the drone began following another car.

“Wait, you guys practice tracking enemies by using civilian cars?” a reporter asked. One Air Force officer responded that this was only a training mission, and then the group was quickly hustled out of the room.
Also the thousands of pages of released records reveal that "law enforcement agencies want to use drones to support a whole host of police work," mainly in the case of drug investigations.  That's right, they'll be scouring the skies looking for pot. Already, several states--Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Texas--are partnering with the federal Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security for drug enforcement purposes. In fact, some states are withholding "some or—in Orange County's case—almost all information about their drone flights—including what type of drone they're flying, where they're flying it, and what they want to use it for—claiming that releasing this information would pose a threat to police work."

Now, it's not all bad, however, keep in mind that positive reasons can serve to mask not so positive reasons for drones.
"Universities and state and local agencies are finding new and creative uses for drones. For example, the Washington State Department of Transportation requested a drone license to help with avalanche control, while the U.S. Department of Energy in Wyoming wanted to use a drone to “monitor fugitive methane emissions.” The University of Michigan requested one license for its “Flying Fish” drone—essentially a buoy that floats on open water but that can reposition itself via flight (check out the picture to the left of the drone with some dolphin)—and another license for its “YellowTail” drone, which is designed to study “persistent solar-powered flight.”
Links:

Air Force May Be Developing Stealth Drones in Secret
"If these robots are real, the Air Force’s drone era is not only not ending — it’s barely begun."
"Operational Risk Analysis of Predator/Reaper Flight Operations in a Corridor between Cannon AFB and Melrose Range (R-5104A)"

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