The weaponization of domestic drones

Posted by Shane McGlaun

The deployment of unmanned aircraft by law enforcement agencies within the continental United States is obviously a controversial topic.

Indeed, while unmanned aircraft may be legitimately used to curtail criminal or terrorist activity, many privacy groups believe the drones will ultimately end up monitoring average citizens.

The weaponization of domestic dronesSome have also expressed concern that various law enforcement agencies may eventually equip domestic drones with weapons, such as missiles.

The FAA has thus far allowed police departments across the United States to field remote drones equipped with infrared sensors and high-resolution cameras. 

Yet the Montgomery County Sheriff's office in Texas now wants to arm its drones with non-lethal crowd dispersal equipment such as rubber bullets and tear gas.

"Those are things that law enforcement utilizes day in and day out and in certain situations it might be advantageous to have this type of system on the UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle)," Chief Deputy Randy McDaniel told The Daily.

The weaponization of drones is understandably something the American Civil Liberties Union is quite concerned about.

"It’s simply not appropriate to use any of force, lethal or non-lethal, on a drone," Catherine Crump, staff attorney for the ACLU, told CBSDC. "When the officer is on the scene, they have full access to info about what has transpired there. An officer at a remote location far away does not have the same level of access."

The ACLU is also worried about the potential for drone malfunction, as one of the unmanned aircraft could crash to the ground in heavily populated residential or commerical areas.

Nevertheless, Deputy McDaniel says his community doesn't need to be concerned about drones.

"We’ve never gone into surveillance for sake of surveillance unless there is criminal activity afoot... Just to see what you’re doing in your backyard pool - we [really] don’t care," he added.