Scrolling Headlines:

50 Activists attend meeting as UMass Board of Trustees approves motion of divestment from fossil fuel companies -

June 16, 2016

Four former Minutemen depart from UMass hockey program -

June 14, 2016

Boston Calling 2016 delivers rousing farewell to City Hall Plaza -

June 2, 2016

Sufjan Stevens unearths quirk at Boston Calling -

June 2, 2016

The Collegian live tweets Boston Calling -

May 28, 2016

UMass baseball finishes season with sweep over George Mason -

May 22, 2016

UMass women’s lacrosse falls in NCAA quarterfinal -

May 22, 2016

‘Green Room’ is a bloody blast of survival horror -

May 21, 2016

DaLuz: Boston Celtics stuck trudging in the mud -

May 18, 2016

Despite tallying double-digit hits, UMass baseball falls to Fairfield Tuesday afternoon -

May 17, 2016

Radiohead returns to the top with gorgeous, illuminating ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ -

May 16, 2016

UMass women’s lacrosse advances to quarterfinal of NCAA tournament -

May 16, 2016

UMass baseball outlasts Rhode Island in series finale behind strong pitching of Brandon Walsh -

May 15, 2016

Eileen McDonald’s overtime goal advances UMass women’s lacrosse in NCAA tournament -

May 14, 2016

12 UMass students face possible arrests in connection to an alleged bad LSD trip -

May 14, 2016

UMass baseball falls in first-ever Division I matchup with UMass Lowell 7-3 -

May 11, 2016

UMass baseball gets shut out in nonconference matchup with UConn -

May 10, 2016

UMass women’s lacrosse tops Richmond, wins eighth straight Atlantic 10 championship -

May 9, 2016

UMass baseball salvages last game of weekend series with Richmond behind strong eighth inning -

May 9, 2016

UMass women’s lacrosse beats St. Joe’s, advance to Atlantic 10 championship game -

May 7, 2016

Look to the skies: domestic drone use

Flickr/Doctress Neutopia

In Los Angeles, one of the largest manhunts in its history ended earlier this month. The search for Christopher Dorner, a 33-year-old former Navy Reservist and Los Angeles Police Department officer, began on Feb. 3. Dorner waged a one-man war on the “City of Angels” that claimed four lives, including those of two law enforcement officers. Police rushing to find Dorner added drones to their long list of search tools. Dorner was killed by police on Feb. 12.

With the war in Afghanistan wrapping up, the United States is leaving much of its overseas drone fleet while preparing drones at home for a new mission – police work. Although the introduction of drones to U.S. skies has garnered some media attention, it has been widely overlooked. With changing regulations opening up the skies for drones, police departments across the country are pushing to use drones for routine surveillance and, someday, enforcement.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones, as they are popularly known, have been around for a long time. Some of the earliest drones were built during World War II. Drones proliferated during the Cold War as aerial targets and for simple aerial reconnaissance. During the 1990s and 2000s, the U.S. and its allies began to introduce advanced drones for surveillance and combat in the War on Terror. Drone strikes against suspected terrorists in countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen have since become commonplace.

Domestic drone use in the U.S. raises many concerning questions about how drones will be used. The greatest concern is that police departments will adopt drones for warrantless aerial surveillance of unsuspecting citizens, or arm UAVs for use against suspects, taking the country down an increasingly Orwellian path. The American Civil Liberties Union reports that drone manufacturers are already trying to market drones armed with non-lethal weapons such as Tasers, rubber bullets, or tear gas canisters.

The drone arrival has met its first challenge in Seattle, where Mayor Mike McGinn ordered the Seattle Police Department to return its two drones, after anti-drone protesters demanded strict limits on drone activity, to prevent surveillance of “open air gatherings.” McGinn told reporters, “We agreed it was time to end the unmanned aerial vehicle program, so that SPD can focus its resources on public safety and the community building work that is the department’s priority.” Presently, 11 states are considering plans to restrict drones in their skies.

Moving forward, the country will have to decide what role drones will play. If drones are allowed for warrantless general surveillance, civil rights advocates will not be the only ones upset. In the European Union, farmers are outraged by drone surveillance of their fields to enforce subsidy policies. Motorists may not like drones either, particularly if UAVs turn “Speed Limit Enforced by Airplane” warnings into a reality.

Eamon McCarthy Earls is a Collegian contributor. He can be reached at ecmccart@student.umass.edu.

 

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