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Police Launch Drones Over LA 496

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the eye-in-the-sky dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Yahoo! News is reporting that law enforcement officials have launched a new form of drone aircraft to patrol the skies above Los Angeles. From the article: 'Police say the drone, called the SkySeer, will be able to accomplish tasks too dangerous for officers and free up helicopters for other missions. "This technology could be used to find missing children, search for lost hikers, or survey a fire zone," said Commander Sid Heal, head of the Technology Exploration Project of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. "The ideal outcome for us is when this technology becomes instrumental in saving lives."'"
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Police Launch Drones Over LA

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  • Oh cool! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Average_Joe_Sixpack (534373) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @07:44PM (#15556445)
    Just like HL2 ... gimme a gravity gun and I'll get rid of the lil' suckers
    • You better hurry and destory 'em before they manage to take a picture of you though =).
    • Re:Oh cool! (Score:5, Funny)

      by sjs132 (631745) on Sunday June 18, 2006 @10:45AM (#15558095) Homepage Journal
      "A small camera capable of tilt and pan operations is fixed to the underside of the drone which sends the video directly to a laptop command station. Once launched, the craft is set to fly autonomously with global positioning system (GPS) coordinates and a fixed flight pattern.

      Ok, Scratch previous contents of needing guns... Just get a laptop with stumbler... find the 'WHY-FLY' connection (he-he, I'm soooo Punny... ;) and post it to SLASHDOT... Then watch the plane (AKA, DRONE) stall and crash as it gets slashdotted as everyone logs into the drone to see the video of the next hi-way chase on the LA freeway...

      Could bring NEW meaning to the terms "CRASHING A SERVER"... :)

  • by HighOrbit (631451) * on Saturday June 17, 2006 @07:45PM (#15556449)
    This technology could be used to find missing children, search for lost hikers, or survey a fire zone

    Or it could be used to follow White Broncos
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 17, 2006 @08:34PM (#15556610)
      Or simply to ensure everone is having sex in the missionary position. . .

      "Great news chief, this town is free of anal sex!"
    • by cgenman (325138) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @10:07PM (#15556855) Homepage
      launched a new form of drone aircraft to patrol the skies above Los Angeles

      Drones following Drones. Kafka would be proud.

    • by raehl (609729) <(raehl311) (at) (yahoo.com)> on Sunday June 18, 2006 @02:17AM (#15557419) Homepage
      search for lost hikers

      Did LA grow a big forest in the middle of it that I'm not aware of?
      • by valen (2689) on Sunday June 18, 2006 @01:05PM (#15558474) Homepage

          Duh. If you are a hiker, in LA, you are really lost. QED.

        john
      • by IdahoEv (195056) on Sunday June 18, 2006 @04:28PM (#15558983) Homepage
        I live in Altadena (a suburb of Los Angeles), and I can walk to the Angeles National Forest [wikipedia.org] from my house in about ten minutes. (Or a one-minute drive). From there, I can easily hike 500 miles of trails without repeating a step.

        Moreover, as others have pointed out, Griffith Park [wikipedia.org] is the second largest urban park in the the country at 4210 acres. It is definitely large enough to get lost in, especially in the dark if you don't know the trails.

        I just get a little annoyed when people continually badmouth my town. East coasters tend to think LA is just like New York except with snotty movie stars. It's not - West-Coast big cities are very different from East Coast ones in that they are much more spread out instead of vertical and are usually completely surrounded by hundreds of miles of wilderness. Drive 90 minutes in any direction from LA and you are pretty much in the middle of nowhere.

        It's one of the few cities anywhere where you can wake up on an April morning and decide that day if you're going to spend the day surfing/sunbathing at the beach ... or snowboarding, since both are within easy driving distance. I live in LA in part because I like both the opportunities of a big city with major scientific research institutions (Caltech, UCLA, USC) and business opportunity plus plenty of outdoor activities all in one place.

        • Drive 90 minutes in any direction from LA and you are pretty much in the middle of nowhere.

          Yes. Driving 90 minutes in LA means traffic is going nowhere while driving 90 minutes in NYC means there is just no parking space.
  • by Blondie-Wan (559212) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @07:46PM (#15556454) Homepage
    Well, naturally it'll be a great outcome when it's used to save lives. What kind of outcome will it be when it's used to keep tabs on citizens' movements?
    • by bladernr (683269) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @07:51PM (#15556472)
      What kind of outcome will it be when it's used to keep tabs on citizens' movements?

      I guess that depends on which citizens and what is the process to keep tabs on their movements. Do they need a warrant and/or probable cause? Are they good, upstanding citizens or the blow-up-my-own-country variety just picked up in Toronto? In whose hands will the tool be? The "Protect & Serve" type of police or the "Shoot first and ask questions later" kind? Any tool is bad in the wrong hands.

      • Do they need a warrant and/or probable cause?

        Don't worry, if they are they won't be for long.
      • by R3d M3rcury (871886) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @10:06PM (#15556847) Journal
        While I agree with the sentiment--"Any tool is bad in the wrong hands"--I take issue with your example: "Are they good, upstanding citizens or the blow-up-my-own-country variety just picked up in Toronto?"

        I'll admit, this falls back on your warrant and/or probably cause. But consider the following scenario: A man of middle-eastern descent walks home from work and takes a shortcut through the railyard. Now, this is illegal. We all know that. He's doing it because it saves him a 20 minute walk--no excuse, admittedly. A policeman spots him doing this. What would probably happen? The cop would watch what he does and at some point during his walk home, would pull over and ask him a few questions and say something to the effect of "Stop doing that." Maybe even give him a ticket for trespassing or something.

        Same scenario, but this time he's spotted by our "eye in the sky" drone. The operator can't talk to the guy, obviously, but the guy is of middle-eastern descent so he could be a terrorist and, after all, a terrorist could do a lot of damage in a railyard. Maybe I'd best call in the FBI or LA's investigators. Now, of course, we can't just go up to this guy, so we'd better find out more about him, talk to his employer, neighbors, etc. All on the QT, of course, we can't let him know we're watching him.

        So, of course, the man's boss is told that they're investigating this guy because he might be a terrorist. Think the boss is going to give that guy the raise he was planning on giving him? Think the neighbors are gonna let their kids play with his kids?

        The difference here is that the cop-on-the-beat has some incentive to immediately find out what's going on. The guy behind the camera has nothing to do but make up wild stories.
        • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Sunday June 18, 2006 @02:41AM (#15557459)
          Maybe I'd best call in the FBI or LA's investigators.

          Or, I'll tell the local cop on the beat, who might have missed this guy, to go check him out.

          Sure, it could go down as you describe. Or not.
      • by zenhkim (962487) on Sunday June 18, 2006 @12:32AM (#15557223) Journal
        > In whose hands will the tool be? The "Protect & Serve" type of police or the "Shoot first and ask questions later" kind?

        Considering that we're discussing the Los Angeles fucking Police Department I'd say the question answers itself.... (Rodney King, anyone? How about Rampart?)

        Seriously, my "Army vet buddy" also worked as an LAPD cop. Now he's a private investigator who specializes in cases where the defense has suspicions regarding police corruption.

        One such case involved a Latino who was stopped by police while he was walking down the street. The man had no priors, but vaguely fit the description (Latino) of a suspect. When the police proceeded to arrest the man, he protested that he had done nothing wrong. The cops then beat him up, forced him to kneel on the ground and shot him, point blank, several times in the legs.

        Here's the funny/sick part. The police reported that the man broke and ran from the police (resisting arrest) and that they only shot him in the legs to stop him from fleeing. Furthermore, they claimed he was physically violent when they tried to cuff him at that point, so they had to "subdue" him. The guy was screwed, yes?

        No. My PI and ex-cop friend was working for the defense attorney, and he noticed that the angle of the gunshot wounds had an extremely steep downward angle. It didn't fit the police report of the incident ....but it made perfect sense in light of the man's side of the story -- that he was on his knees when the cops, standing around him, shot the man repeatedly.

        From his hospital bed, the man practically cried, "Why, oh why did they have to shoot me so many times?"

        To which my friend explained to him, "Simple, mister: YOU DIDN'T DIE. When cops shoot you at point blank range like that, you're supposed to die. So when they kept shooting you and you kept *not dying* you pissed them off. Don't you know better than to piss off an LAPD cop?" My friend was, of course, joking.

        To this day, my PI / Army vet buddy never runs out of work.
      • by daigu (111684) on Sunday June 18, 2006 @01:01AM (#15557280) Journal
        Some tools are bad in any hands - because of the nature of the tool itself (so called "tactical" nuclear weapons), the environment in which the tool is used (assault weapons in the hands of traffic cops) or other reasons (one example among many: an organized government program where citizens are encouraged and compensated for reporting on fellow citizens).

        Some tools are always tools of tyranny. 24 hour survellience of public spaces - despite the arguably utilitarian aspects - it antithetical to a free society. I believe the parent is simply pointing out this issue.
    • That can already be done through mobile phones, which almost all people of the younger generations have. No need to invent a new drone just for that.
    • You are aware that when in public, people can see you right? Hence the 'public' part.
      • But if I'm in my back yard, doing something illegal, and this spy drone sees me, and I get nabbed.. How's that going to work out?
      • by symbolic (11752) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @08:40PM (#15556632)
        You're missing the point..."in the public" does NOT mean "under surveilance." They are two different issues, and it's especially important when you factor in the issue that the surveilance isn't on private property being performed by a private entity, it's being conducted by the government. I believe that ALL government surveilance should be overseen by a court, especially since advances in technology are making it relatively easy.
        • by EGSonikku (519478) <petersen.mobile@NoSPAM.gmail.com> on Saturday June 17, 2006 @08:50PM (#15556663)
          But how is this different than a Polic Helicopter? I presume they didn't go out and get warrants for every house and backyard they fly over and can see into. Removing the human element shouldn't cause the paranoia i'm seeing here.
          • by Anonymous Coward
            The reason it's differant than a police helicopter is this. There aren't that many police helicopters, and it's relatively expensive to fly police helicoptors. That means that a relatively small portion of the area is being patrolled by helicoptor at any one time. Also police helicoptors are much more usefull for events that are currently in progress rather than general patrolling.

            Drones on the other hand are much less expensive than helicoptors and in many cases are safer. This means that for the cost of o
          • For one thing, police helicopters are loud and obvious. They're watching you, yes (in fact they have a crystal clear, high resolution view of the ground, even at night) but at least you know they're there. It's also easy to tell if their surveillance powers are being abused; if a helicopter was hovering over the same house for hours or returning night after night the object of the surveillance would know and be able to question why.

            "Drones" are pretty much invisible. There's no accountability, because y
          • by evilviper (135110) on Sunday June 18, 2006 @01:13AM (#15557308) Journal
            Removing the human element shouldn't cause the paranoia i'm seeing here.

            Sure it should. It's not the "removing the human" element, it's the "adding the machine" element. It's the "law enforcement database" thing, the "CCTV" thing, all over again. When you have an automated information-collection system, you have FAR, FAR more potential for abuse. A view which has been confirmed time and time again.

            The British government is getting a lot of flack lately, for their own CCTV system, as people say the police are using it to prosecute trivial infractions, while serious crimes continue unabaited. Video after video gets released of someone getting repeated beaten and/or stabbed under the watchful eye of CCTV cameras, and perhaps a half hour elapses before any officers arrive. Not to mention repeated misidentification through the CCTV system, leading to innocent people being arrested, shot, etc.

            Up until the modern era, it wasn't that you had privacy, it was that it was prohibitively expensive/difficult for police to piece together your every move, as they can now at trivial cost. At least with a police helicopter, you know they aren't going to go through the trouble of hovering over private homes, waiting for trivial laws to be broken.
        • Furthermore, all government surveilance should be accessable to the public except in cases where it's *legitimately* for the sake of public security. If it's all going on behind closed doors, not only can there be an abuse of the system, but it's almost a certainty given enough time. And by legit, I mean getting a jury-voted (not just a judge, who could well be quite slanted) order to seal it, not sealed by default - innocent until proven guilty, so to speak.

          Personally, I'd rather just take my chances a

          • While I agree that most things are fair game in public, that doesn't change the fact that it's just about impossible to live without leaving the privacy of your own home.

            Exactly. There is a certain infrastructure that have been built around the notion of a modern society, and as citizens, we are, for all practical purposes, required to use it. What other practical options do you have, for example, than setting your weekly trash out for collection by a specialized service? By default, then, you are required
  • 1984? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Psychotext (262644) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @07:47PM (#15556459)
    But police say that such privacy concerns are unwarranted because surveillance is already ubiquitous. "You shouldn't be worried about being spied on by your government," said Heal. "These days you can't go anywhere without a camera watching you whether you're in a grocery store or walking down the street."

    You're already screwed, but you don't have anything to worry about unless you have something to hide. You don't have something to hide do you citizen?

    Dropping the paranoia. I've been into a surveilance center in a major city and, as you would expect, half the time the people working there are too busy checking out the hot women walking about to notice any crimes...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 17, 2006 @07:48PM (#15556462)
    Here is a link to the SkySeer product on the manufacturer's web page that includes a photo of the device (looks like a model airplane): http://www.octatron.com/Products/SKS.html [octatron.com]

  • by gd23ka (324741) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @07:49PM (#15556465) Homepage
    "The ideal outcome for us is when this technology becomes instrumental in saving lives."

    But we'll settle for tracking your every move.
  • Combat Zone (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pvt_medic (715692) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @07:49PM (#15556466)
    "bringing technology most commonly associated with combat zones to urban policing." now some might argue that LA is not that far away from being a combat zone.
  • by notext (461158) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @07:54PM (#15556482)
    Once they fly over a backyard with some woman topless sunbathing out by the pool they'll forget all about saving lives.
  • by mikesd81 (518581) <mikesd1@veri[ ].net ['zon' in gap]> on Saturday June 17, 2006 @07:54PM (#15556483) Homepage
    LA's a big city. There are some good things about this.


    * It frees up man power
    * It saves money on paying pilots and buying more aircraft
    * They can cover more are quickly plus relay constant feed back and be remotely controlled to travel certain ares faster.

    There are some bad things.

    * It could, theoretically, be a privacy issue as they take pictures of people's yards (I'm sure pictures will be wide lens)
    * Let's say they can hover and ease drop on a building
    * I'm sure taxes will come into play (howerver this may be on neutral ground if it really beneifts the residents).
    • "Eavesdrop", not "ease drop". I'm no spelling fascist but that one tripped me up a little bit so I figured I'd help everyone else out.
    • Like everthing else -- this is probably a good idea if used by responsible constitution respecting police officers. It could be horribly abused as well. So it boils down to, do you trust the government?

      (now the editoral) Five years ago I would have said I trusted the government to basically do the right thing, most of the time. With Bush openly defying the constitution because he wants to, I'm not so sure anymore.

  • but actually... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bunions (970377)
    "This technology could be used to find missing children, search for lost hikers, or survey a fire zone,"

    "... but will in fact be used to further re-enforce the creeping feeling that LA, and indeed America at large, is turning onto a police state where the citizens are under constant surveillance."

  • Umm, no thanks (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 17, 2006 @07:55PM (#15556493)
    From TFA:

    Though the SkySeer is not capable of spying into windows just yet, for some a future of nearly invisible eyes in the sky is an unsettling introduction of science fiction into daily life.

    "A helicopter can be seen and heard, and one can make behavior choices based on that," said Beth Givens of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. "Do we really want to live in a society where our backyard barbeques will be open to police scrutiny?"


    At least someone is asking the right questions.

    But police say that such privacy concerns are unwarranted because surveillance is already ubiquitous. "You shouldn't be worried about being spied on by your government," said Heal. "These days you can't go anywhere without a camera watching you whether you're in a grocery store or walking down the street."


    I don't have a problem with private businesses using cameras to monitor their property as long as the cameras are not government sanctioned stations to monitor the public. I would hope that tapes from those business cameras would at least take a subpoena to be viewed. Where I do have a problem is when an officer seems to justify unwarranted surveillance devoid of probable cause using unmanned drones patrolling my backyard. What happened to my Constitutional rights regarding search and seizure?

    And do you know how they sell this to the public?

    "This technology could be used to find missing children, search for lost hikers, or survey a fire zone," said Commander Sid Heal, head of the Technology Exploration Project of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. "The ideal outcome for us is when this technology becomes instrumental in saving lives."


    It's for the children stupid!!! How long until this is used to collect even more information on the citizen of our US? Land of the free and home of the brave indeed...
    • Why nobody cares (Score:5, Insightful)

      by electrosoccertux (874415) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @09:35PM (#15556765)
      By and large, the most frequent response when I get this is "Oh, no, thats not going to happen. The government is doing this for a good reason, and I trust them."

      So I've given up on trying to convince any but my closest friends. I just don't care anymore. If they want to be this flippant about the fourth ammendment, I'll let them be. To either wake up one day to realize they lost all their rights (and its too late for them to do anything about it), or to stay asleep....either would be a horrible punishment. They deserve it; they've chosen it.

      I'm not that worried about it. We are smart enough to be on the inside of it all. We're smart enough to be the ones at the top monitoring all the OTHER stupid citizens. When enough smart ones rise up who care enough to do something about it, I'll either welcome them in or join them to set it the way it should be. Its win/win either way.
      • by evilviper (135110) on Sunday June 18, 2006 @01:23AM (#15557323) Journal
        We are smart enough to be on the inside of it all. We're smart enough to be the ones at the top monitoring all the OTHER stupid citizens.

        That's a TERRIBLE position to take. If you not only fail to resist, but support this activity, you're helping to create the monster, which may very well eat you when it is finally in place. How many of Stalin's top men found themselves in the gulags they helped to create? How many Jews were indespensible cogs in helping the Nazis suppress other Jews, only to end up sharing the same fate?

        Being at the top is a short-term benefit at best, while helping establish something evil is a long-term proposition. It's a case of chosing death, or selling your soul to stay alive. I really hope most people have less self-centred ideals than yours, and can better look at the big picture.
    • Re:Umm, no thanks (Score:3, Interesting)

      by stubear (130454)
      What's the difference between a cop driving down the street (or using a helicopter) and observing a crime in progress and a cop sitting being the controls of a UAV and observing a crime in progress? One also has to ask what's the difference between obtaining a subpoena to discover the contents of an ATM camera and obtaining the warrante to surveil an area with a UAV? The courts would be involved in the process in some fashion.
  • Bullshit (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dotslashdot (694478) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @08:02PM (#15556518)
    "This technology could be used to find missing children, search for lost hikers, or survey a fire zone" COULD BE used. Obviously it WON'T be limited to those situations. How will it help find missing children? Since they are missing, you don't know where to look, and you cannot possibly look everywhere in Los Angeles. If they are kidnapped, then how will the drone find them in a car or a house? Searching for lost hikers is a legitimate use, but how often will it be used for that? I don't see an epidemic of lost hikers justifying purchasing this equipment. As for use in a fire zone, why would the POLICE purchase a drone for that? Wouldn't the FIRE DEPARTMENT need it? These are NOT the reasons for using these drones. These drones will be used to monitor the streets of Los Angeles to gather track citizens and citizen activities at the expense of intruding on people's privacy (not legally defined privacy, but real-life privacy). These will be deployed during lawful public protests, for example, under the excuse of public safety. Since the Department of Homeland Security already has jurisdiction over pretty much everything, they can use it to build profiles of people at a lawful protest, adding to the data the DHS collects against citizens, allowing it to add people to no-fly and other blacklists. This is really just domestic spying, not to save the children, hikers or survey a fire. ("Mr. Fire, can we ask you a few questions?").
    • Obviously it WON'T be limited to those situations.

      Well its a bit like operating a helicopter of which I assume the LA police have one or two, except it is a bit easier to operate without being seen (during the day, anyway, at night I would assume that they would have to use nav lights) and might be cheaper to operate (perhaps, depends on economies of scale).

      If they wind up having thousands of small, cheap UAV's in the skies over LA I would expect to see them drop out of the sky from time to time and I won

    • These drones will be used to monitor the streets of Los Angeles to gather track citizens and citizen activities at the expense of intruding on people's privacy (not legally defined privacy, but real-life privacy).

      Exactly right, this is what the movie Blue Thunder [gregdonner.org] was all about. Except instead of stealth helicopters we're now seeing unmanned drones deployed over population centers. How long until these drones become more "useful" by being armed with crowd-control features such as gas or even lethal force?
    • they can use it to build profiles of people at a lawful protest, adding to the data the DHS collects against citizens, allowing it to add people to no-fly and other blacklists.

      I don't see how it could possibly identify individuals from the sky. In fact I'm having trouble thinking what use it will be to police at all. The kneejerk response would be "anything a helicopter is good for, but cheaper"... except it only goes 30mph, and only for one hour, so forget tracking automobiles.

  • by GeneralEmergency (240687) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @08:05PM (#15556530) Journal


    Well, get yourself a GPS Jammer [computerworld.com].

    You can bweak the Man's widdow pwane!!!
  • "The ideal outcome for us is when this technology becomes instrumental in saving lives."

    Ideally that is. At least until it crashes and kills someone.
  • actual pictures (Score:5, Informative)

    by calin2k (763711) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @08:14PM (#15556556) Homepage
  • cost effectiveness (Score:2, Interesting)

    by lostinbnw (979632)
    what are the price on these little babies? will they have to teach the police to handle them or will they need to bring in a dedicated tech to watch them? it seems like a lot of money to spend n somthing that has a high chance of failing simply from outside enviromental hazards.
  • Free up the helicopters for much more important tasks [istockphoto.com].
  • General Aviation? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Suzuran (163234) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @08:18PM (#15556570)
    Can these things see-and-avoid other air traffic, or does this come with a permanent TFR?
  • Pictures (Score:4, Informative)

    by eander315 (448340) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @08:21PM (#15556574)
    Xeni Jardin (of BoingBoing and NPR fame) reported on this a few months ago [flickr.com]. The pictures of the plane are good, but the control equipment is even more so.
  • able to accomplish tasks too dangerous for officers ... This technology could be used to find missing children, search for lost hikers ...
    Looking for people that have gone missing is too dangerous for the LAPD?
  • Because the only one who can save us from the drones is Max, the bitchin' X5-452
  • "I have a bad feeling about this..."
  • For those of you who play G.R.A.W. (Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter), you know how to take care of that pesky drone problem...just grab your assault rifle, set it on full-auto, and blast away until the drone is a million tiny pieces...then wait two minutes for the next one to appear behind the blue spawn (I'm assuming that's the team the cops would be).

    Hopefully nobody will take this too literally and start base-raping the boys in blue, though. Or better yet, grab your ZEUS anti-tank missile, and take tha
  • You will all be required to get rfid tags implanted under your skin (for national security reasons of course), see http://www.adsx.com/ [adsx.com], and these drones will be sent out to scan every square inch of the continent, looking for people who AREN'T giving off a rfid signal. The rebels will be captured and put into fenced off detainment centers for processing, see http://www.apfn.org/apfn/camps1.htm [apfn.org]

    Kiss your remaining freedoms goodbye.

  • Say it like it is (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @08:53PM (#15556668)
    It's not like it's a big secret. It costs too much to operate choppers 24/7 for the surveillance desired. Drones are cheaper, they only cost once (plus nominal costs for fuel) and you can lay off those expensive pilots.

    Now, drones are by definition dumb and sooner or later one will crash. That is not necessarily "protecting" the public, will probably hurt more people than it saves, but as long as you can argue that's the idea behind it, it will fly. Hell, the "war on terror" was supposed to protect US people, and more people died during that war than in terrorist acts before 9/11. But hey, it was the idea behind it.
  • when they fire plasma beams at small children.

    cause ya know those small children are the problem.

    it's funny laugh :)
  • by ptbarnett (159784) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @09:09PM (#15556714)
    "Yahoo! News is reporting that law enforcement officials have launched a new form of drone aircraft to patrol the skies above Los Angeles."

    Not quite:

    http://www.aopa.org/whatsnew/newsitems/2006/060609 uav.html [aopa.org]

    The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department (LASD) was reportedly evaluating a 4-pound UAV for surveillance use over the sprawling L.A. Basin, which also happens to be some of the busiest airspace in the world. Members were rightly concerned about the risk of a midair collision with the small, radio-controlled aircraft.

    AOPA staff promptly raised the issue with the FAA. Not only did that action make sure that a mini-UAV wouldn't be sharing L.A.'s airspace with GA pilots, it will also lead to a better policy controlling UAVs nationwide.

    The FAA made it clear to the LASD that as a public operator, it would need a certificate of authorization (COA) and an experimental airworthiness certificate before it could fly a UAV, regardless of size, in the National Airspace System. (National airspace includes Class G, uncontrolled airspace.) Those are the same rules that apply to the larger UAVs being flown by the military and Department of Homeland Security.

    Public and commercial operators aren't flying UAVs for "recreational purposes," so they are not permitted to fly remotely piloted aircraft under the provisions of the FAA's radio-controller modeler's advisory circular.

    According to AOPA's FAA sources, the LASD reassured the agency that it will fully comply with all FAA regulations.

  • Danger to aircraft! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by olafva (188481) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @09:23PM (#15556745) Homepage
    My son flys light aircraft in the LA area. He has commented Helicopters are often
    difficult to see, especially when the hover stationary at the end of runways. There
    have been several crashes with loss of life in LA due to light planes hitting helos.
    Perhaps since UAVs fly lower than helos, they will reduce crash danger to my son.
    I'm curious if UAVs are exempt from all FAA regulations or do they require any
    notification tonearby towers when they are launched?
  • by Neptune0z (930626) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @09:54PM (#15556812)
    After reading over a lot of the slashdot replies to this article; it's interesting to note that the majority of them are posts by people with privacy concerns. I mean, a tool is just that; an instrument that serves a purpose. As has already been said before many times; Theres nothin fundamentally wrong with this technology, but instead how it's used will be the deciding factor. While I don't give much thought to the average joe's insights or opinions, I try to pay attention to underlying themes, ideas and threads of thought that run thru society as a whole. And, right now theres a storm brewing here in the USA. Im not saying most (or even the majority), but a substancial part of the populace does have a very uneasy feeling about our government and their motives. I'm trying to be an optimist, but despite that; I see such technology being abused to serve the interests of those in power without some type of VERY good oversight... Let's hope other people see this also, and do something about it before technology gets too advanced and we have no choice but to play along... Just my $.02
  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Sunday June 18, 2006 @01:35AM (#15557347)

    New capabilities create new vulnerabilities all the time, I don't see anyone talking about what new vulnerabilities these drones open up and how they are going about protecting against them.

    The first thing I think of when I hear about remotely controlled vehicles is, "how easily can the control part of 'remote control' be disrupted?" If the idea is that they can use these things against criminals - what is to stop a criminal from buying a pre-made unit from some grey-market in the far-east, or modifying an "almost there" off the shelf transmitter that is capable of disrupting the two way communication required to operate these drones?

    Depending on the specifics, one might even be able to impersonate the unit and send your own video feed to the ground-station. At the very least, I would expect that one could simply dump enough noise into the relevant frequencies to severe the link between ground-station and drone - after all the drone is tiny, it can't have too many watts of transmitting power. A smart criminal could use multiple transmitters, and reflections off of buildings and such, making it that much harder for anyone to get a triangulation on the source of the noise too.
  • by Simonetta (207550) on Sunday June 18, 2006 @01:52AM (#15557373)
    OK, I'll bite. We got pilotless aircraft flying low and slow over neighborhoods in Los Angeles, spying on people, and the authorities say that it's for "finding missing children and lost hikers? C'mon on. The police in LA would only spend all this money on one thing:

        "Nigger Control!"

      To put it bluntly, in their words [in hushed whispers], not mine.

        Do they really have such a big problem that they need all this Kafkaesque technology? Or are they really just a bunch of paranoid psychopathic cowboys with too much money to spend on death machines?

        All this weird 'us vs. them' paranoia that infects the wealthy people of Los Angeles (more than anywhere else on Earth) is getting to be rather embarrassing. Do they really believe that their maids are gardeners are going to rise up and slaughter them in the middle of the night?

        Get a grip, people, and come back down to the real world.

        I'm beginning to think that the entire L.A. techno-fascist police state mentality is directly related to the local Hollywood fantasy mentality. Only it is the inverted nightmare that grows out of too much fantasy, too much money, and too many drugs.

        Is there any other place where people live like this? God, let's hope that it doesn't spread.
  • Not so fast... (Score:4, Informative)

    by mcrbids (148650) on Sunday June 18, 2006 @02:53AM (#15557473) Journal
    Aircraft are regulated by the FAA.

    This activity on Los Angeles' part got the attention of a certain pilot's association [aopa.org] which apparently put lots of ice [avweb.com] on the project.

    So it doesn't appear to be flying anywhere above LA County anytime soon...
  • Dark Angel (Score:3, Informative)

    by Bent Mind (853241) on Sunday June 18, 2006 @06:26AM (#15557752)
    You know, of all the science fiction stories that I'd hope would come true, Dark Angel [imdb.com] wasn't one of them. As I recall from that series, the aerial drones were being outfitted with guns to preform assassinations. The populas never suspected because they had grown used to seeing the drones flying about, doing surveillance. I've always wondered if that series was canceled because it hit too close to home. On the other hand, the second season sucked.
  • by AB3A (192265) on Sunday June 18, 2006 @08:29AM (#15557888) Homepage Journal
    Here in Maryland, the state police have a fleet of Dauphin helicopters with infrared cameras and 30 million candle-power spotlights. They can see an awful lot, day or night. In theory they can spy on anyone in any public place.

    In Baltimore, the city routinely used video surveillance of public areas --particularly places known to be open air drug markets. The courts upheld the convictions of those caught on tape dealing in drugs.

    My question to those who object to UAV surveillance: What do you think these things do that hasn't already been done? The courts have upheld the use of all these technologies. Does the placement on an unmanned aerial vehicle make any difference?

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the demigodic party. -- Dennis Ritchie

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