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Eric Ramnes, Grand Forks, letter: Ground domestic surveillance UAVs

I expect we will be seeing lots more about this story. Just what have the Customs Predators been upto?

From the Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS — The revelation that the Grand Forks SWAT Team not only used an unmanned aerial vehicle to make recent arrests, but also has used the aircraft in the past to perform similar reconnaissance is appalling (“Border Patrol drone was used to arrest Brossarts,” Page A1, Dec. 11).

First, the drones do not even belong to the Grand Forks County sheriff’s department. They are the property of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, which did not have jurisdiction in this case.

The decision was made without input from either the public or the state legislative body, meaning no oversight is employed even to determine when the drones are to be used.

Second, there is the issue of privacy.

Full letter,

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6 thoughts on “Eric Ramnes, Grand Forks, letter: Ground domestic surveillance UAVs
  1. Wait till the ACLU gets their teeth into this one we will need a COA and Presidential authorization cosigned by the Chief Justice and the majority of the Senate before we can toss a 2lb foamy with a camera on it.

  2. This is exactly what I mean when I say “backlash”. Mr. Ramnes makes an astute assumption about who is running the system (not the university). We’ll have to see how the ACLU reacts, but when it comes to UAS, they usually like to go after municipalities that are easily intimidated.

  3. Without intending to say how I feel about the issue of privacy and the use of aircraft, I believe Mr. Ramnes wrote a good, thought-provocing letter.

    Here are some questions or considerations that I think are relevant to the issue:

    If an aircraft, manned or unmanned, is flying above my property at an altitute where I can neither hear nor see it, and is photographing my property with a telephoto lens as if it were a few hundred feet overhead, is my privacy being invaded?

    Are photographs like those suggested above, which are readily available on-line now, an invasion of my privacy?

    Are the street-level photos available on Google Maps which happen to show my neighbor mowing her lawn, an invasion of privacy? (Note, I could tell specifically who was doing the mowing and approximate time of day.)

    If I can see and/or hear an aircraft that is photographing my property, does that make it more of an invasion of privacy?

    Does the issue of manned vs. unmanned have a bearing on privacy concerns?

    Is live video vs. still photography a higher level of invasion of privacy?

    Do we not have laws on the books (in the U.S. if not elsewhere) that might already address some of the misuse concerns such as noise ordnances, stalking, harrassment, slander, libel, etc.?

    Does anyone own the airspace above their heads? (I believe it has been established that they don’t, but I can’t site the specific law.)

    How long will it be before Google Maps is updating their overhead and street-level photos in near-real-time, or at least weekly? Crazy thought? How long ago was the current Google Maps the stuff of science fiction?

    It’s easy to ask the questions, I know.

  4. Paul,

    All very good questions. There are laws on the books, but the vary and I can’t site them either. These will be the questions that will have to be answered in the not too distant future. When UAS use becomes legal (FAA), your Google prophecy will more than likely become a reality.

  5. As an agent not of DHS…WTF; this is a fine example of the level of competencey current “approved programs” operate with. How do those of us attempting to follow the rules, acting responsible, supposed to toe the line when other “professionals” run ramrod all over the skies…4 lb sUAS, nib, 2years and waiting…why?

  6. What is the difference between a nosey neighbour watching me, videoing me, a person driving past doing the same, a security camera system, or any of the airborne methods?

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