MIAMI – Miami police could soon be the first in the United States to use cutting-edge, spy-in-the-sky technology to beef up their fight against crime, the Reuters news agency reports.
The small pilotless drone capable of hovering and "staring" using electro-optic or infrared sensors, is expected to make its debut soon in the skies over the Florida Everglades.
According to the report, if use of the drone wins Federal Aviation Administration approval after tests, the Miami-Dade Police Department will begin flying the 14-pound drone over urban areas with an eye toward full-fledged employment in crime fighting.
"Our intentions are to use it only in tactical situations as an extra set of eyes," police department spokesman Juan Villalba told Reuters.
Taking their lead from the U.S. military, which has used drones in Iraq and Afghanistan for years, law enforcement agencies across the country have voiced a growing interest in using drones for domestic crime-fighting missions.
"The FBI is experimenting with a variety of unmanned aerial vehicles," Marcus Thomas, an assistant director of the bureau's Operational Technology Division told Reuters.
"At this point they have been used mainly for search and rescue missions," he added. "It certainly is an up-and-coming technology and the FBI is researching additional uses for UAVs."
Some privacy advocates, however, say rules and ordinances need to be drafted to protect civil liberties during surveillance operations.
"There's been controversies all around about putting up surveillance cameras in public areas," Howard Simon, Florida director of the American Civil Liberties Union told the news agency.
"Technological developments can be used by law enforcement in a way that enhances public safety," he said. "But every enhanced technology also contains a threat of further erosion of privacy."