DHS embraces small spy drones, slated to begin new testing program at Fort Sill, Oklahoma
By End the Lie
It’s no secret that the government of the United States has come to love drones what with the increasingly deadly drone war in Yemen, potential drone bases across the country ready to be utilized thanks to legislation accelerating drone integration into the national airspace and military drones already being used to gather intelligence for law enforcement in America.
We must also consider the widespread support of drone use, the increasingly powerful surveillance capabilities of drones, the mind-bending technology being integrated into unmanned systems, and the newly demonstrated capability to keep drones in the air indefinitely through ground-based lasers.
However, as I have previously reported, they fall quite short of the mark with their infamous fusion centers producing “a bunch of crap,” open deception of Congress, underestimating the risks associated the National Bio and Agro Defense facility, hiring alleged child molesters to supervise for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and even dropping the requirement to screen employees of chemical plants.
Indeed homeland security is the last concern of the DHS although they seem to be able to convince many Americans otherwise.
The latest DHS plan involves the increasingly popular miniature drones which will be tested at Fort Sill in Oklahoma as a part of the Robotic Aircraft for Public Safety (RAPS) program.
The DHS Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate put out a request for information (RFI) which states, “The goal of this RFI is to solicit participation in the RAPS project from the SUAS vendor community.”
According to the RFI, they are seeing what small surveillance drones can do to bolster “first responder, law enforcement and border security scenarios.” Each drone selected by DHS will be subjected to five days of testing at Fort Sill.
The drones DHS is looking for will ideally be launched by hand, weigh under 25 pounds, take only minutes to assemble and require little training to operate.
According to Danger Room, they want to train remote pilots and technicians in just a matter of days instead of the months or years required to train traditional pilots. The obvious benefit would be the ability to get more drones in the air more quickly than would otherwise be imaginable.
The DHS seeks drones which can stay airborne from 30 minutes to two hours, although the emerging technology (linked above) could provide a theoretically endless flight time.
According to the documents publicly available, the potential missions the small drones that are part of the RAPS program will be involved in include “law enforcement operations, search and rescue, and fire and hazardous material spill response.”
This move on the part of the Department of Homeland Security is quite interesting since Ruth Doherty with DHS S&T told Danger Room last year that “a case has to be made that they’re economically feasible, not intrusive and acceptable to the public.”
It seems that somewhere along the line this case has been made to DHS officials, although I’ve yet to see anything to show that they are economically feasible, non-intrusive or acceptable.
As Danger Room rightly points out, this shift is made even harder to understand when one notes, “A DHS ground station in 2010 lost communications with one of the first Predators it used to surveil the southern U.S. border, and the department has had trouble finding enough pilots and technicians to operate its initial drone fleet.”
The operation of these drones remains problematic since the drones that are part of the RAPS program will require a threshold altitude of some 1000 feet which means they could interfere with helicopter traffic.
Danger Room calls the restrictions put in place by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) “cumbersome” when in reality they’re wholly necessary to keep drones from causing horrific air traffic accidents.
Ultimately, the DHS shift towards drones is really not that surprising, not only since they have become popular amongst many branches of government but also because the DHS obsession with surveillance simply demands the technology.
“In recent years, DHS has gotten interested in vastly expanding its surveillance capabilities, exploring cameras reminiscent of military ones that can spy on four square miles at once,” notes Spencer Ackerman of Danger Room.
Indeed if anything is clear it is that our government is increasingly fascinated with widespread surveillance, monitoring and tracking of the American people. It looks like the Department of Homeland Security is just following suit.
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