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Police departments could soon have easier access to airborne drones: report

The Federal Aviation Administration next month could make it easier for police departments to obtain and use airborne surveillance drones, according to a report (PDF) by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The federal government has held up the domestic use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) out of concern for the safety of U.S. airspace. The use of UAVs have been mostly limited to the U.S.-Mexico border and in war-zones outside the country.

But pressure is going on the FAA to make it easier for law enforcement agencies to gain permission to use UAVs. “Proposed legislation would require the FAA to grant permits more quickly and allow broader use of the technology by 2015,” the ACLU report states. “Meanwhile, amid the mounting pressure, the FAA is planning to create a more permissive approval system for commercial UAV operations, which have been severely restricted until now.”
There are hundreds of different models of UAVs, from large fixed-wing aircraft to a tiny drone called the Nano Hummingbird (pictured above). The drones employ a wide range of surveillance technology as well, including high-power zoom lenses, infrared and ultraviolet imaging, see-through imaging and video analytics. Some drones are also large enough to be fitted with weapons.

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