Drone Proliferation Fans Public Fears

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The FAA's declaration last week that it will allow unmanned aircraft systems weighing up to 25 pounds to fly at altitudes up to 400 AGL and within sight of an operator didn't draw much reaction in the aviation world, but it did get a response from the mainstream media. Conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer said all drones should be banned in U.S. airspace. "Drones are instruments of war," he said on Fox News. "I don't want to see it hovering over anybody's home." At the other end of the political spectrum, the American Civil Liberties Union foresees a "nightmare scenario" where drone surveillance "leads to an oppressive atmosphere where people learn to think twice about everything they do, knowing that it will be recorded and possibly used to target them."

Krauthammer also said, "The first guy who uses a Second Amendment weapon to bring a drone down that's been hovering over his house is going to be a folk hero in this country. ... I'm not encouraging, I'm simply making a prediction." Already, the use of a police drone to conduct surveillance during a property dispute in North Dakota has prompted a court challenge on the grounds that using the drone to collect information amounts to "unreasonable search and seizure," according to a recent story in Slate. The FAA plans to fully integrate drones into the national airspace system by 2015.