Domesticated drones

by Chris Markham. 0 Comments

Now here’s an interesting little tidbit. You all may have heard of a flying craft called a drone. They’re the cool gadgets that allow us to see things blown to smithereens thousands and thousands of miles away. Now, there’s a ginormous push to have drones “domesticated” as it were, for use here in the good old United States.

The potential upside to a drone proliferation is pretty big. Drones can fly into dangerous situations, let people on the ground know what is going on under the drone’s flight path, allowing said people to plan their next moves accordingly. Drones can also be useful surveillance tools for big, hard to cover areas, such as the US-Mexican border. Last, but certainly not least, drones can fly high in the sky, ever vigilant and on the lookout for crimes and the criminals that commit them.

It also appears that the world of the paparazzi is interested in this new-fangled drone technology. There was a report that the gossip enterprise TMZ would be very much interested in purchasing a drone. This report was quickly retracted, but it is easy to see how drones could be attractive to the world of celebrity gossip.

Just think of it – no more noisy helicopters with their airwash ruining weddings of the stars. Or all of the close-ups on teen stars faces as they sit in traffic. Or, and even more interesting, think of all the nudity these things will be able to capture as they buzz along secluded beaches, spas and yachts. I might actually be a fan of the last one.

The mind truly reels.

However, and I do hate to be a killjoy here, these are drones we’re talking about. Silent predators patrolling our cities and neighborhoods, looking into windows and skylights, all in the name of keeping us safe. I’m all for keeping us safe, but at what price? By price I don’t mean the actual cost of the program – I mean the cost in our liberty.

Again, that’s where that good old document called the “United States Constitution” comes into play. We have a little thing contained therein called the 4th Amendment. For those of you that are unfamiliar (or have seen said amendment erode over the past few years), it basically states that we, as Americans, have a right to privacy in both our persons and in our possessions. This means that, without probable cause (or unless you let them in), the government can’t just walk into your house and look around, or pull you over and snoop in your car, or stop you for no reason whatsoever on the street.

That said, think of the endless possibilities for drones and our personal privacy. That is to say, our personal privacy would be obliterated. Currently the United States Supreme Court has defined our privacy with respect to airborne investigations as what can be perceived by a person looking for a specific purpose above your property.

In simple terms, to look for something on your property from the air, there still has to be probable cause for the government to look for it. There have been some instances where the government has spotted something during routine fly-bys, but, for a successful case to be built, the government must land the craft, obtain a warrant, and then go back to see what they already saw.

This may seem like a lot of work, but believe me, it’s much better than having government agents prowling around the streets at all hours of the night, looking for something to happen in places where they don’t belong.

On the streets? No problem. On public property? Have at it. On my property where you don’t have probable cause? Forget it.

You may also think that Congress will save us from this intrusion and desecration of the 4th Amendment, and you would be wrong. Apparently, there is now an informal “drone” committee in Congress. This bipartisan group is terribly interested in getting as many drones up in the air as possible. Why? Not so much for security, but more for the cash. The drone industry gives heavily to members of Congress to get their birds in the air.

As the immortal Fletch would say, “Thank god, the police are here.” The people we trust to protect our liberties are selling them out as quickly as they can.

Makes you feel like the drones just should follow the politicians.

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Chris Markham writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com.

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