Is Your Town on the FAA's New Drone List?

Illustration for article titled Is Your Town on the FAA's New Drone List?

The Federal Aviation Administration has finally released a new drone authorization list. This list, released in response to EFF's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, includes law enforcement agencies and universities across the country, and-for the first time-an Indian tribal agency. In all, the list includes more than 20 new entities over the FAA's original list, bringing to 81 the total number of public entities that have applied for FAA drone authorizations through October 2012.

Some of these new drone license applicants include:

  • The State Department
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
  • Barona Band of Mission Indians Risk Management Office (near San Diego, California)
  • Canyon County Sheriff's Office (Idaho)
  • Clackamas County Sheriff's Office (Northwest Oregon)
  • Grand Forks Sheriff's Department (North Dakota)
  • King County Sheriff's Office (covering Seattle, Washington)

And several new entities in Ohio, including:

  • Medina County Sheriff's Office
  • Ohio Department of Transportation
  • Sinclair Community College
  • Lorain County Community College

The list comes amid extensive controversy over a newly-released memo documenting the CIA's policy on the targeted killing of American citizens and on the heels of news that Charlottesville, Virginia has just become one of the first cities in the country to ban drones. This new list should contribute to the debate over whether using domestic drones for surveillance is consistent with the Constitution and with American values.


As we've written in the past, drone use in the United States implicates serious privacy and civil liberties concerns. Although drones can be used for neutral, or even for positive purposes, drones are also capable of highly advanced and, in some cases, almost constant surveillance, and they can amass large amounts of data. Even the smallest drones can carry a host of surveillance equipment, from video cameras and thermal imaging to GPS tracking and cellphone eavesdropping tools. They can also be equipped with advanced forms of radar detection, license plate cameras, and facial recognition. And, as recent reporting from PBS and Slate shows, surveillance tools, like the military's development of gigapixel technology capable of "tracking people and vehicles across an entire city," are improving rapidly.

EFF hopes this list will spur more people to ask their local law enforcement agencies about their drone programs. EFF has partnered with MuckRock to make it easier to ask for and disseminate this information. We also encourage people to ask hard questions of government officials about who is funding drone development in their communities and what policies the government will demand agencies follow if they fly drones. We need greater transparency and citizen push-back to protect Americans from privacy-invasive domestic drone use.

You can find the new list here.

Republished from the Electric Frontier Foundation.


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Jayhawk Jake

I don't get the hate. If government wants to spy on you, they'll spy on you anyways. Drones are more cost effective than planes or helicopters, but outlawing one doesn't outlaw the other, and there will still be an eye in the sky keeping watch.

Besides, if you don't do anything illegal, why do you care? Oh no, someone is going to watch me go to work, or grocery shopping, or taking a shit. I don't mind, they aren't going to see anything that will affect my daily life in any way.

If an inexpensive unmanned aircraft helps police catch murderers faster, helps firefighters stop fires sooner, helps the DEA keep drugs out of the reach of children, then I'm all for it. In the very least, I'd much rather have my tax money spent on that than more weapons to go fight wars in other countries.

The biggest thing that bothers me about the drone hate is the same thing that bothers me about any debate related to aviation. People that know nothing about it hate on it for stupid reasons, then laws are made by lawmakers that have no knowledge about how this stuff works and screws over those that do. I believe Oregon was trying to pass an anti-drone law that would have essentially made ANY remote controlled aircraft ILLEGAL, as illegal as owning a fully automatic gun. So if that law passed, and I lived in Oregon, I would be a criminal because I have 4 remote controlled aircraft in my home, and they are all big enough to carry a small camera (one of them could probably carry a GoPro without much effort).

It blows my mind that our government can be so two faced. On one hand they will push for more STEM jobs, for the US to be a science and engineering leader, yet on the other hand they go and try to pass laws to ban an entire technology segment that the US is dominating, and that has the potential for creating thousands of jobs. We need to stop stifling innovation for the sake of our perceived privacy.