June 28, 2012, 6:14 PM — Over the course of the next 10 years as many as 30,000 military or military-inspired drones will be flying patrols over the continental United States to monitor illegal immigration, track down criminals on the run and help with search and rescue missions, according to Pentagon and other government estimates cited in an investigative report in the Christian Science Monitor earlier this month.
The prospect makes a lot of people nervous, though in oddly specific ways.
Eighty percent of U.S. residents think drones would be great additions to search-and-rescue operations and more than two thirds think they'd be great helping police catch criminals on the run, according to a survey released June 12 by Monmouth University.
Two thirds would also be flatly opposed to drones being used to catch speeders, however.
Libertarian Congressman Rand Paul worries that drones carrying high-resolution cameras would invade the privacy of individual citizens, especially those the police may be targeting for investigation. He's proposed a bill that would require require police or federal law enforcement agencies to get a warrant giving them permission to use drones for surveillance. Without a warrant any evidence drones collect would be inadmissible as evidence of a crime.
Nebraska Rep. Mike Johanns worries drones will invade the privacy of ranchers and farmers who are currently free to pollute the land out of sight of EPA investigators. A bill he proposed prevent the EPA from using drones to scout for violations of environmental regulations.