Miami may be the first American city to have its police force adopt Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to aid police in fighting crime, a development civil liberties groups are finding disconcerting.
"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.
A small pilotless drone manufactured by Honeywell International, 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.
If use of the drone wins Federal Aviation Administration approval after tests, the Miami-Dade Police Department will start flying the 14-pound (6.3 kg) drone over urban areas with an eye toward full-fledged employment in crime fighting.
Miami-Dade police are not alone, however. 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. Known in the aerospace industry as UAVs, for unmanned aerial vehicles, drones have been under development for decades in the United States.
Citing numerous safety concerns, the FAA -- the government agency responsible for regulating civil aviation -- has been slow in developing procedures for the use of UAVs by police departments.
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,' said Howard Simon, Florida director of the American Civil Liberties Union. '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.'"