The military/aerospace (mil/aero) industry is obsessed with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) this month. The FAA is occupied with the safe integration of UAVs in public airspace. The Pentagon is buzzing about the first recorded attack on a military drone in the airspace over the Persian Gulf. The public is growing more concerned and vocal about UAVs as they relate to privacy.
Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are much more affordable than in years past; they continue to become ever more compact and inexpensive. As a result, homeland security and law enforcement agencies are opting to add a UAV to their arsenals, in lieu of and for roughly the same cost as a new patrol car.
A large segment of the population has been, and continues to be, very vocal on the topic of unmanned vehicles in the public airspace, especially as it relates to privacy.
A majority of public sentiments echo those of Oakland resident Mary Madden: “I do not want flying spy robots looking into my private property with infrared cameras. It’s an invasion of my privacy.” Madden’s comments, as quoted in Aviation Week, come in reaction to an Alameda County sheriff’s application for a federal grant with which to buy a UAV.
A growing number of law-enforcement agencies are applying for and receiving grants from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to purchase unmanned police aircraft. Police, sheriff, and fire & rescue professionals seem to favor vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) UAVs, such as the DraganFlyer X6 and AeroVironment’s Qube.
This geek is undecided on whether UAVs should be used as “flying spy robots.” However, it is a testament to the state of the technology that they are affordable enough that a police department can afford to purchase aircraft such as UAVs and VTOLs to bolster the pool of resources at their disposal to fight crime.