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Wed, May 02, 2012

Authorities Guarantee UAS Use Over National Capital Region

One Police Chief Says Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Are Coming, Likely Soon

If you're old enough to remember the CB radio craze, you'll remember the term “there's a bear in the air” ... meaning an airplane was conducting traffic surveillance, often with radar. Well, according to one Beltway area police chief, we may be returning to the days of “bears in the air” or as others have called it, Orwell's "1984" with Big Brother watching.

Speaking on Washington, D.C., radio station WTOP's "Ask the Chief" program Monday, Fairfax County Police Chief David Rohrer, said "Drones will certainly have a purpose and a reason to be in this region in the next ... coming years." While the chief sees drones as an aid to traffic monitoring, it should be noted that we reported here on Aero-News some weeks ago that a US citizen is awaiting his day in court after he was arrested by police aided by the use of a drone to pinpoint his location following an armed confrontation with officers. The trial is likely to be a test case for law enforcement use of UAVs.

The use of UAVs in the D.C. area became public information last week, after the FAA released a list of agencies currently or previously permitted to use the unmanned aerial vehicles. It included many federal departments, such as Agriculture, Homeland Security and Energy as well as local organizations such as Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia Tech.

The use of the unmanned aircraft over U.S. soil has some in Congress concerned about Americans' privacy rights. Rep. Edward J. Markey, (D-MA), in an April 19 letter to FAA, wrote, "The potential for invasive surveillance of daily activities with drone technology is high. We must ensure that as drones take flight in domestic airspace, they don't take off without privacy protections for those along their flight path." (UAV helicopter image from file)

FMI: www.faa.gov

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