Drones are prominently in the news this week. The U.S. Department of Defense has given military bases new guidelines allowing them to shoot down consumer drones trespassing on (above) military bases. The Los Angeles Police Department wants to finally use two drones it received from the Seattle Police Department that have been sitting unused on the shelf for two years. And Mexican cartels are increasingly using drones to drop contraband like drugs, porn and cell phones behind prison walls.
Law enforcement officials point to potentially positive drone uses: getting critical information during an events such as an active shooter or hostage situation; monitoring armed suspects; looking for missing hikers. One would think that for this type of purpose, a drone is akin to a police helicopter hovering above and reporting what it sees. But the proposed L.A.P.D. one-year pilot program is receiving major opposition from critics including the ACLU and Black Lives Matter.
Hamid Khan, head of the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition sees police drones as a nefarious violation of citizen privacy. He was quoted as saying “What this represents is the rapid escalation and militarization of police.”
As for the ability of law enforcement to counter the criminal use of drones, there is an interesting article from the BBC on the subject. Indeed, a new job title has emerged: the Forensic Drone Detective, the person of figures out where the attacking drone came from and who was piloting it. Link here to How Cops Catch Drone Flying Criminals.
My only problem with the article is that it sits under a BBC magazine section called “Future” when in fact the serious problem of drone use at the hand of criminals and terrorists is very much with us today. It is not a future problem. If anything, one suspects that we may be late to the show.