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January 7, 2011 8:02 AM   Subscribe

Miami Police Set to Become First State in the US to Use Drones. As also discussed here on TPM, the new drones offer "unique hover and stare capability... advanced intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) with real time video documentation." If things proceed to plan, this will represent the first use of such devices both in the US and outside of combat environments. The resemblance between these Honeywell-manufactured devices and the ubiquitous, menacing City Scanners that populate the dystopian landscape of the popular video game series Half-Life is striking.
posted by saulgoodman (135 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
*stocks up on crowbars*
posted by dirigibleman at 8:03 AM on January 7, 2011 [29 favorites]


Oops. Dropped a link. Should include:

"As also discussed here on TPM..."
posted by saulgoodman at 8:03 AM on January 7, 2011


Jeez, that didn't take long.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:04 AM on January 7, 2011 [12 favorites]


The article notes "Honeywell has applied to the FAA for clearance to fly the drone in urban areas". The larger question is how they're going to get FAA clearance to fly in public airspace. Drones are currently not allowed to fly in US airspace without a chase plane right next to it to provide visual separation from aircraft.

Is Miami's plan to close the airspace over the city to ordinary aircraft? That's not going to go well. And judging by the lousy service I got from Miami Center last week, the last thing air traffic control wants in Miami right now is some complicated new class of aircraft to service.
posted by Nelson at 8:05 AM on January 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


"It gives us a good opportunity to have an eye up there. Not a surveilling eye, not a spying eye. Let's make the distinction. A surveilling eye to help us to do the things we need to do, honestly, to keep people safe," said Miami-Dade Police Director James Loftus.

Yes, let's make the "distinction."
posted by blucevalo at 8:05 AM on January 7, 2011 [39 favorites]


Are we living in a police state yet?
posted by ryoshu at 8:08 AM on January 7, 2011 [20 favorites]


I'll be interested to see how this fares given the redneck love of shooting at things.
posted by ghharr at 8:09 AM on January 7, 2011 [26 favorites]


The distinction apparently is this: It's not spying, or creepy, techno-totalitarian horror movie shit that even a child could recognize as over the top, as long as we're doing it to keep people safe. Like when Darth Vadar had to slaughter all those Jedi children to bring peace and security to the Galaxy.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:09 AM on January 7, 2011 [42 favorites]


Seems like this would violate some kind of "reasonable expectation of privacy", a concept that I think I've heard used in legal arguments before. I know people who have built tall fences around their backyards because they like to sunbathe nude or use their hottub without having to show off their privates to the neighbors. But if there are things with cameras hovering in the sky taking photos, that kind of negates those kind of privacy measures.

We'll probably end up with a scandal where Miami police officers are sharing addresses where such people live, or swapping pictures taken of them. It'll be like the inevitable pornoscanner scandal which everyone knows is coming, only in full color and not taking place in airports.
posted by hippybear at 8:09 AM on January 7, 2011 [8 favorites]


"It gives us a good opportunity to have an eye up there. Not a surveilling eye, not a spying eye. Let's make the distinction. A surveilling eye to help us to do the things we need to do, honestly, to keep people safe," said Miami-Dade Police Director James Loftus.

Just like tasers are an alternative to lethal force and not everyday pain-compliance used on college kids and the elderly alike.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 8:09 AM on January 7, 2011 [26 favorites]


When did Miami get statehood?
posted by Camofrog at 8:10 AM on January 7, 2011 [14 favorites]


I'll be interested to see how this fares given the redneck love of shooting at things.

I'll be interested to see how ordinary folk's love of shooting at things increases given this fare.
posted by Ahab at 8:11 AM on January 7, 2011 [10 favorites]


unique hover and stare capability

You haven't met my old co-worker from three years ago.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:11 AM on January 7, 2011 [33 favorites]


These things are noisy, right? Sorta like a weed-whacker powered remotely piloted clay pigeon.
posted by warbaby at 8:13 AM on January 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


We'll probably end up with a scandal where Miami police officers are sharing addresses where such people live, or swapping pictures taken of them.
Probably.
However, that will only result in officers being reprimanded, fired, etc. It will have no effect on the use of drones. This is one genie that no amount of public outrage will get back in the bottle. Make no mistake, this is a technology that police departments have been salivating over for years.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:22 AM on January 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


I guess they're still working the bugs out of the manhacks, with their unique hover and maim capability.
posted by gamera at 8:24 AM on January 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


It is a matter of time before some drug lords steal or make their own drones. Then look out! drone battles over Miami!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:24 AM on January 7, 2011 [10 favorites]


So when do I have to worry about my desk heater taking flight and staring at me?
posted by menschlich at 8:28 AM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Dibs on the engines, K Roq!

Seriously I think the war will be between blinding it or shooting it down.

Also Predator is to Reaper as T-Hawk is to ____.
posted by djrock3k at 8:30 AM on January 7, 2011


Then look out! drone battles over Miami!

Sounds like a really horrible Dwayne Johnson flick, except the reality is scarier than the movie.
posted by blucevalo at 8:30 AM on January 7, 2011


Seems like this would violate some kind of "reasonable expectation of privacy", a concept that I think I've heard used in legal arguments before. I know people who have built tall fences around their backyards because they like to sunbathe nude or use their hottub without having to show off their privates to the neighbors. But if there are things with cameras hovering in the sky taking photos, that kind of negates those kind of privacy measures.

We already have things with cameras hovering in the sky taking photos, so I don't think the privacy angle will apply. It is, however, scary beyond all reason that we're letting ourselves be surreptitiously surveyed so speedily.
posted by nzero at 8:30 AM on January 7, 2011


To be fair, you're not going to have much of an expectation of privacy left after getting used to the network of police drones that are constantly watching your every move. America turned into a police state so gradually it was tough to know when it happened.
posted by norm at 8:31 AM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


I can see the cop defense of the doohickey: the one drone, which has a forty-minute time limit, is meant for, and capable of, only one task really: tactical intelligence during SRT (MDPD's version of SWAT) raids -- an "eye in the sky" for paramilitary operations. "We wanna be able to see if there's a perp with a gun behind the house" kind of thing. Since there's only one drone, and it can't remain airborne very long, that's pretty much all it's gonna be good for. What's the problem?

Ah, but as we all know, drones are getting more and more capable, and cheaper and cheaper, so how long before MDPD decides that they need more, and purchase four, or six, of the new drones that can remain up for hours, like in Afghanistan? Reasonable, right?

And as the tech capabilities improve, its mission will stretch just a bit, ever so reasonably. "We can't see everything at once, but the drones can!" They'll issue speeding tickets from a thousand feet up. They'll track suspects fleeing on foot. The cops will love them.

Then will come the scandals. ("My ex-husband, the cop, has a drone follow me around all day!") But, of course, by then, the drones will have proven their police value, so removing them from service would be unthinkable. Promises of oversight will come. A committee will be formed. And drones will proliferate all the while.

LAND OF THE FREE, HOME OF THE WHOPPER! WOOOOO!!!
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 8:31 AM on January 7, 2011 [52 favorites]


Also Predator is to Reaper as T-Hawk is to ____.

Zangief?
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:34 AM on January 7, 2011 [14 favorites]


I have only one word to say.

PULL!
posted by mrbill at 8:35 AM on January 7, 2011 [9 favorites]


Joe Arpaio wept.

"Zangief?"

Zangief is always the right answer.
posted by Eideteker at 8:36 AM on January 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


From the Honeywell link:

# Ducted Fan Design

* Gas-powered engine
* Safer operation
* Easy to fly – deploys in under 10 Min.
* 10,000 ft ceiling, 50 MPH, 46 Min. endurance

20 lbs.

So they won't be flying these all day long.
posted by jjj606 at 8:36 AM on January 7, 2011


Ha ha ha, now that comment shows up in the search it links to. Awesomely meta.
posted by Eideteker at 8:37 AM on January 7, 2011


(I also love that I made basically the same comment once a year, three years in a row.)
posted by Eideteker at 8:38 AM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


The larger question is how they're going to get FAA clearance to fly in public airspace.

Even better: just about the entire city of Miami, FL is in KMIA's class B airspace, from 7000 down to the surface. So, it's just a little busy. The drone doesn't seem to have a transponder, either.

It seems that the target use is just about building level, where there damn well better not be any planes -- however, when they're landing to the west, KMIA's approaches are all over the city.

If an engine eats one of these, it's going to be all sorts of bad. The ILS charts have the airliners at 1600 MSL just off the coast, so they'll be low, and getting lower as they follow the glideslope.

Yeah, remind me to not fly there.
posted by eriko at 8:38 AM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Seems like this would violate some kind of "reasonable expectation of privacy"

You're too hung up on the word "reasonable" - it doesn't mean what you might reasonably think it means... A reasonable person might expect that the word "reasonable" suggests that the government should not intrude upon "expectations of privacy" that society might consider "reasonable." However, it just means that while today's "unreasonable" intrusions into your expected privacy may be subject to initial checks against being used against you in a criminal trial, the pervasiveness of the government's "unreasonable" intrusions into your expectations of privacy, in time, result in expectations of privacy no longer being considered legally "reasonable"

on preview, what norm said
posted by lulz at 8:39 AM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Please put down your weapon. You have 20 seconds to comply.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:40 AM on January 7, 2011 [12 favorites]


drone battles over Miami!

That's the name of my new booty-bass album.
posted by fuq at 8:40 AM on January 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


As long as they arm the drones with missiles and target late 90's Honda Civics tearing through stop and go traffic on I95 I'm OK with it.
posted by photoslob at 8:42 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Drones have been used in the UK for some time now:

22nd May 2007 - First police ‘drone’ takes flight
25 August, 2009 - New policing methods during the two events will include drones flying over the protestors
12th February 2010 - Drone makes first UK 'arrest' as police catch car thief hiding under bushes
16th February 2010 - A police force has grounded a £40,000 "eye in the sky" amid concerns it was being used illegally
posted by MuffinMan at 8:43 AM on January 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


And finally - Merseyside Police 'drone' fails to convict suspected car thief (28th Apr 2010)

A suspected car thief chased through thick fog by a hi-tech police robot has escaped without charge, due to a "lack of evidence".
posted by MuffinMan at 8:45 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


First the drones came for the Taliban, and I did not speak out, for I was not a Taliban
posted by crayz at 8:48 AM on January 7, 2011 [13 favorites]


no bond smuggling for Don
posted by clavdivs at 8:49 AM on January 7, 2011


I put the over/under on 'days until a dude in a Guy Fawkes mask is blinds a drone with a laser, followed shortly by the Miami PD labeling it a terrorist action' at 4.5. Unlike with red light cameras, pictures snapped of offenders will not prominently feature a license plate to trace the perpetrator, so I have a feeling this problem will quickly solve itself.
posted by Mayor West at 8:53 AM on January 7, 2011


However, that will only result in officers being reprimanded, fired, etc.

Yeah, about that...
posted by Hoopo at 8:57 AM on January 7, 2011


Unlike with red light cameras, pictures snapped of offenders will not prominently feature a license plate to trace the perpetrator, so I have a feeling this problem will quickly solve itself.

Wouldn't they just use them more like they do helicopters but with far less maintenence costs, zero risk to operators, and the ability to keep them flying longer with less operator fatigue (because you can just change operators mid-flight by simply handing the controls to the other guy)?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:00 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


If things proceed to plan, this will represent the first use of such devices both in the US and outside of combat environments.

Didn't the PATRIOT Act reclassify the entirety of the US as a "combat environment"?
posted by acb at 9:04 AM on January 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


Osama bin Laden: Game, set and match.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:05 AM on January 7, 2011 [8 favorites]


"Skynet became self-aware at 2:14am on August 29, 1997 2017"
posted by briank at 9:07 AM on January 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


can you destroy a CCD or a CMOS sensor with a laser? or with anything else non-physical?
posted by Mach5 at 9:08 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hm. How long until we have rooftop license plates?

You know, I never knew how prescient "Blue Thunder" would turn out to be.
posted by LucretiusJones at 9:08 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I thought they had been patrolling the Mexican border with Predators.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:13 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I read the last sentence and thought, "Surely they don't look that much like the drones from Half-Life." Then I clicked on the link. I am now eagerly awaiting the arrival of the zero-point energy field manipulator I ordered from blackmesa.com.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:18 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


26 May 2014: Drone arrested after recording a police officer beating a skateboarder
posted by dirigibleman at 9:21 AM on January 7, 2011 [11 favorites]


Maybe they'll have unencrypted video feeds and/or control interfaces like the ones in Afghanistan did a while back. Lots of fun to be had intercepting the feed, jamming the control frequencies, or outright taking control of the interface and flying it around wherever you'd like.

Also I worry about what impact this will have on Dexter staying safe.
posted by Babblesort at 9:28 AM on January 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


When did Miami get statehood?

Oops. Well, on the other hand, according to Florida's new governor, Florida isn't really a state so much as a company, and Florida law already grants developers like Disney and the Villages what essentially amounts to territorial sovereignty anyway. There's even a Christian-only community development here that trumps local and state law with bible-based law, so even though you're technically correct, of course, it's kind of a legal free-for-all in Florida right now.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:29 AM on January 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


Easily shot.
posted by zennie at 9:32 AM on January 7, 2011


Here is a picture of a drone that I took parked on the depot where I work. It says 'Northrup Grumman' and 'fire scout' on it. I'm not so sure that "If things proceed to plan, this will represent the first use of such devices both in the US and outside of combat environments" is a true statement. Fire Scout could be 'I'm a looking for things to fire at' or 'I'm scouting for forest fires' which seems like a good use for a drone.
posted by fixedgear at 9:38 AM on January 7, 2011


This is one genie that no amount of public outrage will get back in the bottle.

What I want to know is, whose twisted, morally-craven and myopic idiot children are running around opening all these evil genie bottles? And when are we going to start locking up or putting child-resistant lids on the damn things?
posted by saulgoodman at 9:39 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not so sure that "If things proceed to plan, this will represent the first use of such devices both in the US and outside of combat environments" is a true statement.

You may be right. But TPM puts it this way:

"a technology that until now has been used for official purposes only in war zones and along the country's border."
posted by saulgoodman at 9:41 AM on January 7, 2011


Northrop Grumman Fire Scout "provides unprecedented situation awareness and precision targeting support for U.S. Armed Forces of the future."
posted by briank at 9:41 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


the money shot
posted by clavdivs at 9:52 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


"I'll be interested to see how this fares given the redneck love of shooting at things."

Have you been to Miami-Dade lately, rednecks are few and far between.
posted by oddman at 9:56 AM on January 7, 2011


That Northrop Grumman Fire Scout thingy doesn't look nearly as practical or as ominous as this thing, though. The Fire Scout is basically just a smallish RC helicopter. This T-Hawk thing, on the other hand, is the stuff of Sci-Fi nightmares.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:58 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Osama bin Laden: Game, set and match.

Yeah, it's like we've chosen: "Wait! Just...one...more...turn...".
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 10:12 AM on January 7, 2011


Is it a misdemeanor or felony if you initiate an aerial dogfight with your remote control hobby plane?
posted by asfuller at 10:15 AM on January 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


yes
posted by clavdivs at 10:23 AM on January 7, 2011


I've done a lot of work for Honeywell. I wish they would spend less time on scary, Half-Lifey drones and more time on upgrading their fucking offices from IE6.
posted by brundlefly at 10:23 AM on January 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


violates FCC regulations
posted by clavdivs at 10:23 AM on January 7, 2011


Uh oh. Can it see me not picking up my digs' leavings?
posted by nj_subgenius at 10:24 AM on January 7, 2011


haha
posted by clavdivs at 10:28 AM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'd like the Honeywell thermostat here at work to autonomously float just out of reach of that person down the hall who is apparently cold blooded.
posted by orme at 10:28 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


...drug lords steal or make their own drones...

Once the drones get better payload handling, ten bucks says we see aerial drone mules zipping across the border, and then the drone wars get 10x more interesting.

It's better than crashing ultralights ...
posted by bhance at 10:31 AM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Are we living in a police state yet?

And if you were, would you know it?
posted by rough ashlar at 10:31 AM on January 7, 2011


we're letting ourselves be surreptitiously surveyed so speedily.

Go ahead. Try and get standing to stop it.
(Thanks 1920's idea that you need standing!)
posted by rough ashlar at 10:34 AM on January 7, 2011


Welcome to City Seventeen, it's... safer here.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 10:34 AM on January 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'll be interested to see how this fares given the redneck love of shooting at things.

I don't think any legal civilian arms could shoot something hovering as high as a UAV's typical flight elevation. Maybe the new Republican congress will be able to get SAMs legalized to protect our 2nd Amendment rights, though....
posted by Thoughtcrime at 10:37 AM on January 7, 2011


I'm trying to remember in Larry' Niven's known space which came first, the organleggers or the copeyes,his take on floating video surveillance devices. One of his better short stories proposes a world where society has gotten so used to the constant watching that when a hacker knocks out all the copeyes in a city, people start devolving into chaos and barbarism. If we are only 'good' when watched, what kind of people are we really inside?
posted by nomisxid at 10:39 AM on January 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Fire Scout could be 'I'm a looking for things to fire at' which seems like a good use for a drone.

Errrrrr, how is a drone that can fire at things "good" if you can be the thing fired at?

Rarely is being downrange of any weapon "good".
posted by rough ashlar at 10:41 AM on January 7, 2011


violates FCC regulations

As if the FCC Regs are somehow better than "The Constitution" at 'stopping things'?
posted by rough ashlar at 10:43 AM on January 7, 2011


or 'I'm scouting for forest fires' which seems like a good use for a drone

I think you didn't finish the sentence or are misreading it.
posted by Babblesort at 10:46 AM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Skynet became self-aware at 2:14am on August 29, 1997 2017"

What's that you say? This is a good place to post my growing collection of "Inevitable War Against the Machines" links? Fiiiine.

Robots, with "SELF" installed, to "aid in their own construction."

Mad Scientist: Artificial Brain 10 years away.

“We completely understand the public’s concern about futuristic robots feeding on the human population, but that is not our mission,” stated Harry Schoell, Cyclone’s CEO.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a sandwich board to paint "DOOOOOOM" on.
posted by ScotchRox at 10:52 AM on January 7, 2011


I don't think any legal civilian arms could shoot something hovering as high as a UAV's typical flight elevation.

One word: laser.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:02 AM on January 7, 2011


That Northrop Grumman Fire Scout thingy doesn't look nearly as practical or as ominous as this thing, though. The Fire Scout is basically just a smallish RC helicopter.

It looks a little bigger and ominous up close.
posted by bobo123 at 11:22 AM on January 7, 2011


And exiled somewhere in Mexico, an extremely large Native American sheds a single digital tear.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:30 AM on January 7, 2011


Serious technical question:

Surveillance drones are constantly broadcasting a video feed, right? Without bothering to decrypt the feed or to gain control of the drone, how hard would it be to use this signal to locate the drone, to get some 3D coordinates?

If it is possible to track a drone like this, what would the resolution be? The accuracy? Could it be done by a small team of people with a couple thousand dollars in equipment and some DIY skills?
posted by Dr. Curare at 11:39 AM on January 7, 2011


It looks a little bigger and ominous up close.

They need to paint googly eyes or something on these drones... it's the blind cave fish thing that makes them so creepy.
posted by valkane at 11:39 AM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Pick up that can.
posted by Zozo at 11:50 AM on January 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


.
posted by sexyrobot at 11:54 AM on January 7, 2011


I have met the drones and the drones are us.
posted by swift at 11:55 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


The T-Hawk reminds me a lot of an Imperial Probe Droid.
posted by Babblesort at 11:57 AM on January 7, 2011


When did Miami get statehood?

When did the Miami police get (police) statehood?
posted by bearwife at 11:59 AM on January 7, 2011


You're right Babblesort: it looks even more like an Imperial Probe Droid than like a City Scanner.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:03 PM on January 7, 2011


" Do not be alarmed. Continue swimming naked."
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 12:16 PM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yet, I bet it could be blinded with a sub-$50 laser...
posted by generichuman at 12:19 PM on January 7, 2011


Harvey Jerkwater: I can see the cop defense of the doohickey: the one drone, ... capable of, only one task really: tactical intelligence during SRT (MDPD's version of SWAT) raids

Ah, but as we all know, drones are getting more and more capable, and cheaper and cheaper, so how long before MDPD decides that they need more...

And as the tech capabilities improve, its mission will stretch just a bit, ever so reasonably.... They'll issue speeding tickets from a thousand feet up. They'll track suspects fleeing on foot. The cops will love them.

Then will come the scandals.... But, of course, by then, the drones will have proven their police value, so removing them from service would be unthinkable. Promises of oversight will come. A committee will be formed. And drones will proliferate all the while.


MuffinMan: Drones have been used in the UK for some time now:

22nd May 2007 - First police ‘drone’ takes flight
25 August, 2009 - New policing methods during the two events will include drones flying over the protestors
12th February 2010 - Drone makes first UK 'arrest' as police catch car thief hiding under bushes
16th February 2010 - A police force has grounded a £40,000 "eye in the sky" amid concerns it was being used illegally


So living in the UK is like living in the future! Except, it's limited to all the suck of a totalitarian state, without the fun of flying cars and jet packs.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:20 PM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


@generichuman - the laser has a range of 9000ft - the drone can fly at 10k.
posted by zeoslap at 12:21 PM on January 7, 2011


Dear humanity, on behalf of all engineers who have ever gleefully worked on UAVs, I am so sorry.

fuck you, america, for taking a nerdy little kid's dream job and turning it into some creepy orwellian shit.
posted by elizardbits at 12:24 PM on January 7, 2011 [16 favorites]


I'm so glad I bought an Arctic Laser.
posted by Splunge at 12:25 PM on January 7, 2011


Surveillance drones are constantly broadcasting a video feed, right? Without bothering to decrypt the feed or to gain control of the drone, how hard would it be to use this signal to locate the drone, to get some 3D coordinates?

If it is possible to track a drone like this, what would the resolution be? The accuracy? Could it be done by a small team of people with a couple thousand dollars in equipment and some DIY skills?


Two words: Spread Spectrum.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 12:25 PM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


New meme: "If we let drones fly over the USA, the terrorists win."
posted by ZenMasterThis at 12:26 PM on January 7, 2011


I'm so relieved I found my old crowbar when I was looking around the garage last weekend.
posted by homunculus at 12:33 PM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well I for one think it's a great idea, he quivered.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:40 PM on January 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Here's the blog of a company in Saskatoon making similar devices, soon to be coming by a police service like yours.

It's easy to see why the police like them. Here's a traffic accident scene investigation with one of those units that's got to be hundreds of times cheaper than the traditional helecopter flyover method. They can be a real boon to emergency services folk too.
posted by bonehead at 12:44 PM on January 7, 2011


Dear humanity, on behalf of all engineers who have ever gleefully worked on UAVs, I am so sorry.

No shit. Here I was thinking the first application of domestic UAVs would be to deliver hot pizzas to remote camping sites, but NOOOOO.

"Drones have been used for years in Iraq and Afghanistan in the war against terror."

You loved it on TV, now you can play the home game!
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 12:47 PM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am now more pleased than ever that I invested in a maze of twisty little passages (all alike) under my apartment building.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:58 PM on January 7, 2011


Eh, wake me up when they come down in price.

Because I want one!
posted by cjorgensen at 1:01 PM on January 7, 2011


I am now more pleased than ever that I invested in a maze of twisty little passages (all alike) under my apartment building.

Did the landlord require a pet deposit for the minotaur?
posted by shakespeherian at 1:08 PM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


"@generichuman - the laser has a range of 9000ft - the drone can fly at 10k"

"Can fly at" != "tactically useful at." Police helicopters can fly at 10k too, but are used much much lower.
posted by zoogleplex at 1:09 PM on January 7, 2011


a maze of twisty little passages (all alike)

Fond memories of mapping the maze in Adventure, back when my idea of a great computer game was inputting and reading lines on a blank computer screen, return from 30 plus years ago . . .
posted by bearwife at 1:12 PM on January 7, 2011


Huh. Well know that I know there's a legitimate reason to own a gun, I might have to go shopping.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 1:26 PM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Residents have also questioned whether or not Miami-Dade Police can afford to purchase the drone, especially since the department has recently made a lot of budget cuts.

This past year I went to the Miami-Dade County Budget Hearings. Both of them. These hearing start at 5:01 PM and go on into 3:00 to 4:00 AM the next morning. During the hearings, residents are allowed two minutes to speak on behalf of programming or tax cuts or whatever they wish pertaining to the budget.

It was one of the most heartbreaking events of the year. Little kids get up and speak about how head start changed their lives. Rape victims tell about how a crisis center saved their lives. A woman in a wheelchair discusses the power of the arts and how a dance company helped her become a dancer. Story after story talks about the power of programs funded by the county making the lives of citizens better. A few people spoke on behalf of cutting taxes, but in very, very small proportion compared to these stories.

All of these programs have been viciously cut due to lack of funding as a result of how hard the housing crisis hit here. The budget is dependent on property taxes. All of these life giving programs face the chopping block year after year. In order to keep these programs running, the commission voted to raise taxes slightly, but not for everyone.

Because of this a multi-millionaire car dealership owner (who has libertarian politics) has led a massive campaign to recall the mayor. The mayor who did not vote on the final decision to raise taxes, but that isn't his role within county government. The county will spend a considerable amount of money on this recall election, which further cut into the programming that vastly improves the quality of life down here.

Meanwhile, the Miami-Dade County Police Department has bought a drone.

I'm not pissed off because my privacy could be invaded; I'm pissed off because that money could have been spent on our hospitals, our libraries, our crisis centers, our schools, or any other number of programs that are on the verge of being cut. Even a couple of years ago, we could (and did) predict that things would get much worse.

I've read the bit about how the money may have come through a federal grant, but even then, I'd rather have my federal tax dollars going towards libraries, education, the arts, scientific development and the like.
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 1:48 PM on January 7, 2011 [17 favorites]


I still find any mention of UAVs being used for military or surveillance brings up Barry Levinson's uneven yet insightful movie Toys. And then I end up weeping because playthings are being used for death and police work.
posted by hippybear at 1:48 PM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Huh. Well know that I know there's a legitimate reason to own a gun, I might have to go shopping.

Too late. Congress and the States just unanimously repealed the 2nd amendment. If you don't already own one, you're screwed.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:58 PM on January 7, 2011



bhance: with open source UAV hardware you can buy as a kit and advanced opensource navigation software, I would be surprised if UAV's aren't currently used as mules for drug running.
posted by Freen at 2:11 PM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Anyone else thinking that there is going to be a huge underground market for model rockets and RC jets that have been converted to drone seeking missiles?

Because once you take the possibility of hurting a pilot out of the equation, it suddenly becomes little more than aerial vandalism. (Though I imagine the actual charge for damaging one of these will be quite harsh.)
posted by quin at 2:17 PM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


When the UAV comes down there is every possibility that someone will get hurt.
posted by Bovine Love at 2:39 PM on January 7, 2011


it suddenly becomes little more than aerial vandalism

Yeah, it would be rad to just build your own and then have AWESOME MID-AIR BATTLES. Ideally there would be some kind of paste-launching mechanism to splatter their cameras first, though.

Otherwise, a quadrotor with a payload of fish guts could set these up for a wicked seagull strafing.
posted by elizardbits at 2:41 PM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


. But if there are things with cameras hovering in the sky taking photos, that kind of negates those kind of privacy measures.

Don't satellites already do that, though? Harder to shoot at, I guess.
posted by wildcrdj at 3:11 PM on January 7, 2011


And of course there are already private drones in existence. Not that hard to build, really. Of course you might get in trouble for having it fly certain places, whereas the police ones probably wouldn't.
posted by wildcrdj at 3:13 PM on January 7, 2011


Drones are a half measure. This blimp is the future of law enforcement.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:16 PM on January 7, 2011


I think us citizens should have our own RC copter squadrons to keep them in check.
posted by brando_calrissian at 3:25 PM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


You can hack the video feed, or at least you used to be able to, using this software.

It's of course theoretically possible to hack into the control system itself.

Then, for the DIY home defense crowd, there is always the brute force attack.

Yeah, I can't see how anything could go wrong with this plan.
posted by Xoebe at 3:50 PM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


When the UAV comes down [after being hit by an anti-UAV rocket] there is every possibility that someone will get hurt

True. It's hard to remember, as we are discussing the flying police-robots canvassing the city, that we don't have to leap headlong into a cybermeatpunkdyshooktopia where being killed by random flaming robot parts dropping out of the sky is just another ordinary risk of life.

can you destroy a CCD or a CMOS sensor with a laser?

Not very well, I gather. The optics focus the laser to a point (obviously), and you can cause a smattering of single-pixel defects in the sensor but the image is more or less ok. I saw a paper describing experiments along this line but can't find it right now.
posted by hattifattener at 4:00 PM on January 7, 2011


Previously on mefi
posted by desjardins at 4:06 PM on January 7, 2011


Meanwhile in DC people stood around filming a bunch of 11-12 year olds assault a guy in the Metro stop at L'Enfant Plaza. Random bag checks, CCTV cameras, people with hd video cameras on their phones. Did anyone catch theses kids? Did anyone bother to call 9-11 to report an assault in progress. Nope. One class act offered to sell the guy the evidence from his phone. So much for our surveillance state. London Underground: Mind the Gap. DC Metro: walk left, beware of feral pre-teens.
posted by humanfont at 4:19 PM on January 7, 2011


I'm guessing that they will not be able to field these as planned, because there is no indication* that the FAA is any happier about the idea of UAVs in civilian airspace than they were in 2006 when they shut down the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office's plan to do the same thing.

Hell, the FAA didn't even let the LA sheriff do a demo flight!

The FAA is working on new regulations to cover UAVs, but they're taking their time to do it.

* The FAA did approve Predator flights over a portion of the Mexico-U.S. border, but approving an aircraft and control system that's proven its reliability and safety (still approx. 10x the accident rate of manned aircraft) to fly over relatively unpopulated areas seems like a different thing.
posted by jjwiseman at 4:54 PM on January 7, 2011


I always thought the least realist part of Orwell's 1984 was the helicopter surveillance of individuals. Not so much anymore.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 5:01 PM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


4chan hacks it's first drone in 4... 3... 2...
posted by underflow at 6:59 PM on January 7, 2011


As if the FCC Regs are somehow better than "The Constitution" at 'stopping things'?
posted by rough ashlar

Huh, wow. So which part of the constitution allows two people to have aerial dog fights with radio controlled toys. My linked New Yorker cartoon might be in the spirit of your Che T-shirt ideals. Oh, you mean pursuit of happiness while buzzing Mr. Furlhleys wig? No the FCC has rules against these type of things. Be sure to check with local law enforcement or facebook for local statues pertaining to hobbyist needs.

Me, I have 7 ways to bring down a drone, how many you got.
posted by clavdivs at 8:40 PM on January 7, 2011


Me, I have 7 ways to bring down a drone, how many you got.

Assuming the laws of gravity still apply, quite a few.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 9:53 PM on January 7, 2011


Kill it with a kite.
posted by kenlayne at 11:47 PM on January 7, 2011


Wow. I'm stocking up on sling shots. These things should be relatively easy to destroy and it will be our civic duty to turn every single one of these things into a free shipment of high quality electronic parts dropping out of the sky for hobby purposes.

This is just so wrong.
posted by Skygazer at 1:46 AM on January 8, 2011


So which part of the constitution allows two people to have aerial dog fights with radio controlled toys. - No the FCC has rules against these type of things

Do quote the FCC rules that stop aerial dog fights.
posted by rough ashlar at 8:45 AM on January 8, 2011


you first
posted by clavdivs at 9:59 AM on January 8, 2011


here ya go.

some more
posted by clavdivs at 10:06 AM on January 8, 2011


Do quote the FCC rules that stop aerial dog fights.
posted by rough ashlar at 8:45 AM on January 8 [+] [!]
you first
posted by clavdivs at 9:59 AM on January 8 [+] [!]


You are the one making the claim, tradition would have you proving your point. Esp. when "dog fights" in the air would not fall under the Federal Communications Commission. The FAA is a better bet.

And as I remember - Police have a hunk of spectrum to themselves, so if the UAVs used that area of spectrum/broadcast wattage limits - do explain how the FCC would have anything to say other than "Oh,. OK."
posted by rough ashlar at 10:17 AM on January 8, 2011


I'm not sure that the roll out of these things is going to be what the cops expect. Nobody's going to have any compunction about disabling a UAV.
posted by quantumhowl at 2:29 PM on January 8, 2011


RC Plane and 737 near miss.

no arrests.

ok simple work. If you engage another RC you are violating FCC regulations. One is breaking the law by doing so because of the FCCs' regulation over air waves. Of course there is no dog fight law. FCC is important because the plane would not fly without radio signals.

§ 95.212 (R/C Rule 12) What communications
are prohibited?
You must not use an R/C station—
(a) In connection with any activity
which is against federal, state or local
law;
(b) To transmit any message other
than for operation of devices at remote
locations (no voice, telegraphy, etc.);
(c) To intentionally interfere with
another station’s transmissions;
(d) To operate another R/C transmitter
by remote control (See R/C Rule
17, § 95.217); or
(e) To transmit two-way communications.
(f) To transmit data. Tone or other
signal encoding, however, is not considered
to be data when only used either
for the purpose of identifying the specific
device among multiple devices
that the operator intends to turn on/
off, or the specific sensor among multiple
sensors intended to turn on/off indicating
device for the operator.

(PDF)
You are responsible for all communications
which are made


anything else.....
posted by clavdivs at 3:56 PM on January 8, 2011


The purchase of the drone may have been made possible through a federal grant; however, this has not been confirmed.

Sounds like Homeland Security Theater Players money. With only 46 minutes of airtime, what are they gonna use it for? The drones-over-homes righteous fear is that they'd be ever-present. While this is obviously the first step down a slippery slope, sounds like these guys would be more like flying versions of the breaching/entry robots currently in use: sneak up close on the barricaded suspect and check things out. Wikipedia sez the US Navy bought 20 at USD 375,000 a piece: for that money sounds like you couldn't come close to scratching a bare-bones helicopter. Frankly, with how much our Sheriff's department loooved its helicopter when the county had money to pay for it, I'd have welcomed one of these warmly over the grating buzz of the overhead fuzz. Plus, when it goes south, its more likely to take out your Acura than the crew and anyone they can't pilot away from underneath.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 5:21 PM on January 11, 2011


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