General Atomics is the developer of the infamous unmanned Reaper drone that has been used by the United States military to conduct airstrikes in the Middle East since at least 2006. The Reaper was the first unmanned aerial vehicle to take on the role of a true hunter-killer drone and now its maker is looking to introduce a close cousin of the Reaper to law enforcement. Look for the enormous military-style drones to start taking the place of police helicopters by 2025. That is the hope of defense contractors in the United States.
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<span style="margin-top:15px;rgba(42,51,6,0.7);font-size:12px;">Credit: U.S. Customs and Border Protection</span>
The drones will be capable of streaming high-resolution feeds to the ground from 2,000 feet in the air. Right now the FAA is working with defense contractors in the private sector to update it's regulations to allow these drones to fly in U.S. airspace. Currently, the FAA's regulations are geared toward manned aircraft and the regulations are much stricter when it comes to flying drones in U.S. airspace compared to overseas. Matthew Scassero, director of the University of Maryland Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site, says "The market won’t exist until the regulations exist." It may not be long until defense contractors have their wish and begin manufacturing the military-style drones for law enforcement all over the country. Scassero went on to say, "Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, they all have irons in the fire. But I don’t know that any of them are pushing as hard as General Atomics, or as early on the civil commercial side."
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<span style="margin-top:15px;rgba(42,51,6,0.7);font-size:12px;">Credit: The San Diego Reader</span>
This is a worrisome prospect as it will provide yet another tool for the government and local authorities to monitor the population. If drones providing high-resolution live feeds are flying in United States airspace, nothing you do outdoors will be private. Currently the only Predator drones in U.S. airspace are operated by the Department of Homeland Security and mostly used to monitor specific portions of the U.S. Mexico border. The drones would cost around $12 million but the potential to save human life is there. Just earlier this month, two police officers were killed in a fiery blaze when their police helicopter went down in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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