Here is the deal for the 2012 U.S. Drone Census. Anyone can anonymously submit contact information for government entities or institutions suspected of using drones, so that the Electronic Frontier Foundation and MuckRock (a watchdog group that files Freedom of Information requests) can leap into action by filing a public record request. Such efforts could help U.S. citizens find out about neighborhood police departments or local colleges using drones in their proverbial backyard.
Early legwork by MuckRock has already turned up a drone-related contract between the University of Arizona and defense contractor Raytheon. Another public records request led the Boston Police Department to go on record as saying it has no drone plans.
Drones have plenty of legitimate uses among agencies, universities and police departments. They can do many surveillance or monitoring jobs far more efficiently than manned aircraft or helicopters, and often much more cheaply. Still, many people have concerns about drones becoming a common sight in U.S. skies.