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Drones and Domestic Law-enforcement

Drones are moving beyond the theater of war and into the realm of domestic law-enforcement. More and more police forces and government agencies are exploring the potential of unmanned drones for covert aerial surveillance, security, or emergency operations both in the United States, and across the Atlantic, in the United Kingdom.

In the U.K. The Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca), which works closely with police forces and MI5, published an unusually detailed public tender notice in the summer requesting submissions from suppliers of airborne observation “platforms” that can be adapted for “target acquisition” and intelligence-gathering.  These “microdrones” can be fitted with video cameras, thermal imaging devices, radiation detectors, mobile-phone jammers and air sampling devices. Hovering at heights of around 60 meters, they are said by manufacturers to be virtually invisible from the ground.

In the United States, drones are being used for immigration enforcement rather than against organized crime efforts.  U.S. Customs and Border Protection rolled out the first Texas-based Predator drone that will fly from the Naval Air Station in Corpus Cristi. The pilotless craft is designed to fly for 20 hours on one tank of fuel. The Predator joins three others based in Arizona to provide full coverage over the Southwest U.S. border. The Corpus-based drone will watch an 800-mile stretch of the Texas-Mexico border, from the Rio Grande Valley to Big Bend. In the the command center on the ground, a pilot and co-pilot fly the Predator and guide its cameras and radar by remote control.


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