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Seattle Police Want More Drones, Even While Two Sit Unused

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the how-to-stop-those-punks-on-capitol-hill dept.

Electronic Frontier Foundation 144

v3rgEz writes "The Seattle Police Department is seeking to buy more unmanned aerial vehicles (a.k.a. drones) even as the two it currently owns site warehoused until the city develops a policy for their use, documents released as part of the EFF and MuckRock's Drone Census show. More frightening than the $150,000 price tag? The fact that the drone vendors market the fact that these lease agreements do 'not require voter approval.'" Does your city or town use drones?

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Fans of U.S. policy abroad... (1)

rmdingler (1955220) | more than 2 years ago | (#41637255)

Agree that the Drones don't seem to require their vote of approval.

Re:Fans of U.S. policy abroad... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41637295)

in soviet russia, strike drones you!

edit: captcha was "groaned"

No...... (1)

abhi2012 (2739367) | more than 2 years ago | (#41637277)

.......we have superman to look over the streets!

Re:No...... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41637363)

Unmanned, unpopular airborn drone? Sounds like skeet.

Re:No...... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41637413)

In Seattle we have Phoenix Jones [wikipedia.org] . I don't see why we need any drones.

Re:No...... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41637441)

Superman hates liberals, he never visits the left coast.

Now that's change ... (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41637321)

... you can believe in.

I'm not anti-Obama, I'm anti-the-major-parties.

They're all the same shit; both at the State and Federal levels. Neither truly represents their constituents.

Redundant? More like informative (1)

shiftless (410350) | more than 2 years ago | (#41639615)

Come on mods

Does your city or town use drones? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41637361)

Why, yes, almost the entire population is one. The politician needs drones to win an election. Drones that don't ask embarrassing questions and just accept the party line are best.

sounds legit (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41637415)

My wife has a vagina that goes unused but^H^H^Hso I'd like a couple more to play with. What's the issue here?

Re:sounds legit (0, Offtopic)

snspdaarf (1314399) | more than 2 years ago | (#41637487)

My wife has a vagina that goes unused but^H^H^Hso I'd like a couple more to play with. What's the issue here?

If I was suffering from micropenis, I would keep my mouth shut.

Re:sounds legit (4, Funny)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 2 years ago | (#41637541)

If I was suffering from micropenis, I would keep my mouth shut.

If you were suffering from micropenis, your mouth might be the only other thing you have to offer...

Re:sounds legit (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41638235)

If I was suffering from micropenis, I would keep my mouth shut.

If you were suffering from micropenis, your mouth might be the only other thing you have to offer...

Just a guess, but you actually have a micropenis, right? Hence your confusion over whether or not it's a clitoris... right?

I'm gonna tell Seattle Police (1)

Spy Handler (822350) | more than 2 years ago | (#41637453)

that they can get a UAV drone for free with a 3 kill streak. They probably didn't know that.

Re:I'm gonna tell Seattle Police (1)

Dishevel (1105119) | more than 2 years ago | (#41637775)

A UAV kill streak is for pussies.
Mine do not start till 6.

Re:I'm gonna tell Seattle Police (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41638775)

A UAV kill streak is for pussies.
Mine do not start till 6.

And then you switch to rabbits?

Helicopters (4, Insightful)

Dan East (318230) | more than 2 years ago | (#41637463)

I'm curious why people see this as so much worse than the police helicopters that have been in use for decades. Is it because they cost less money, and thus can be operated more frequently? Or because people associate them with the military?

Re:Helicopters (3, Insightful)

asmkm22 (1902712) | more than 2 years ago | (#41637505)

Flimsy as it is, one of the more reliable defenses against privacy invasion has always been the cost and difficulty of wide-scale monitoring. So unless you are actually targeted by the police for some reason, it's pretty unlikely your actions are at all monitored. Also, there is something a little creepy about having drones flying around overhead keeping tabs on a city...

Re:Helicopters (3, Interesting)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 2 years ago | (#41637831)

Even though they are 150k each, you can buy 10-20 for the price of 1 helicopter. Not to mention cheaper operations and easier to train a drone pilot than a real one.

Re:Helicopters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41638933)

Even though they are 150k each, you can buy 10-20 for the price of 1 helicopter.

Cite please.

According to http://tomsum.hubpages.com/hub/How-much-does-a-Helicopter-cost [hubpages.com] a helicopter only costs 2-12 drones.

Re:Helicopters (1)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 2 years ago | (#41639347)

Yeah but this is a govt helicopter. The corrupt assholes with pork the chopper cost up, buying gucci jockstraps for the police baseball league and what have you.

Re:Helicopters (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41639475)

And they aren't govt drones?

Re:Helicopters (2, Informative)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 2 years ago | (#41639573)

I don't know if it is because of corrupt assholes, but this article here seems to show quite a bit more when completely outfitted for the police.

http://www.policeone.com/police-products/vehicles/articles/1359987-Police-helicopters-becoming-commonplace/ [policeone.com]

The bell 407 in the pic is said to cost 1.5 mil outfitted and ready for service. I doubt they go for the luxury copter but they probably do look for the air duty equivalent of a surplus military copter with some comforts not generally involved in a military helicopter like a cushioned seat. Helicopters used to be provided relatively cheap on a surplus offering from the military. I guess after 9/11, demand for them shot past the availability of the surplus crafts and private suppliers started offering specially outfitted helicopters for law enforcement purposed.

Re:Helicopters (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41639517)

Nobody operates R-22 or R-44 helicopters for anything besides training. The R-22 has a weight capacity of something like 300 lbs. The B206, and EC120 are both fairly dated helicopters as well.

Re:Helicopters (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#41639531)

Of course, it costs a lot more to fly the helicopter as well.

Re:Helicopters (2, Informative)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 2 years ago | (#41639707)

For anything that would be used by government (the ability to put out a fire, carry FLIR or hold a medical patient), you are looking at $2,000,000 minimum, plus gear and training. I'm guessing that pilots are more expensive for helicopters than drones.

Re:Helicopters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41639489)

Why would it be cheaper to train the drone pilot? Surely the task of remaining aloft is no easier whether the pilot is in the craft or not. Unless the implication is that you don't need quite the same quality because no lives (in the aircraft) are at risk? Seems unlikely you'd want any drones falling out of the sky.

Re:Helicopters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41639881)

Because helicopters are aerodynamic instability hell, and fixed-wing UAVs aren't.

Re:Helicopters (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | more than 2 years ago | (#41640099)

If the cost to train and employ a drone pilot is half that of a pilot of a real helicopter that meas that they can man only twice as many drones as helicopters for the same operational budget. Doubling the number of eyes in the sky is not a huge improvement and is a far cry from "they can watch everything. That would require 50 to 100 times more drones and they do not have the budget to pay the pilots.

Re:Helicopters (1)

Guru80 (1579277) | more than 2 years ago | (#41638123)

Now add in the future the predict future crimes and have an ex-hobbit tired of following Frodo around as the brains behind the operation and we are all set for a B-level sci-fi future.

Re:Helicopters (1)

Guru80 (1579277) | more than 2 years ago | (#41638131)

*Ability to PREDICT the future...my fingers must already have that technology.

Re:Helicopters (3, Insightful)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 2 years ago | (#41637721)

For the same reason people complain about GPS tracking on cars: they want to punish someone else for their perceived damage.

People have some expectation of privacy in everything they do, with thresholds varying from "I don't want anyone to know anything about me" to "just don't put anything inside me except dinner". Note that this expectation is completely unrelated to how private a particular situation really is - a big open window in full view of the street isn't really reasonably private, but people still complain if someone looks in.

When someone's expectation of privacy is broken, they get offended, and like all offended people with over-inflated senses of entitlement, they want someone else to be just as offended as they are, if not more. If someone's going to learn what grocery store they shop at, it had better involve a person standing on the sidewalk for hours handing out surveys. If the police are going to watch their movements, it should involve an officer spending their whole day in a car with a logbook, rather than ten minutes with a computer. If their neighborhood is going to be subject to aerial recording, it should cost an exorbitant amount to hire a skilled helicopter pilot, ground crew, and airport space.

This isn't about being actually worse or even being more frequent. It's about Americans being offended and not having a built-in mechanism to force someone else to share in their frustration.

By some definitions, that alone means these automated systems are unjust. After all "justice" is simply a feeling that my pain has returned to whomever caused it (in a nebulous, unquantifiable way).

Re:Helicopters (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41638151)

That's stupid.

People are upset by them because they are designed to be constantly in the air. If they were used for the same purposes as police helicopters you would only need 1 or 2. You only need more if you intend on having them constantly deployed. Knowing our local police that means they'll start using them to cite traffic violations like speeding, which most Americans don't consider a crime.

In Virginia they still haven't answered whether or not the drones will be armed. There are serious implications if they are.

But either way, constantly being watched by flying vehicles is an invasion of privacy. I have a reasonable expectation that if I go out for a drive, walk, to dinner etc, that the government is not spying on me constantly. What is the end game? To gather lots of small things together to make it seem like I did a crime? There is no reason to be running drones constantly. Crime rates are down across the country.

Re:Helicopters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41639699)

People are upset, because this has a lot of potential for misuse. Look at the license plate readers for example. Or the video cameras placed on street corners.

Re:Helicopters (2)

jklovanc (1603149) | more than 2 years ago | (#41640197)

These are the kind of uninformed posts that truly irk me. The "facts" they purport are blatantly false, the parallels they draw are meaningless and they information they leave out is obvious.

People are upset by them because they are designed to be constantly in the air.

Drones use fuel and need to land to refuel just like manned helicopters. The flight time of currently used helicopters is limited by the fuel tank not the crew.

If they were used for the same purposes as police helicopters you would only need 1 or 2.

One would need exactly the same number of drones a helicopters to get the same coverage.

Knowing our local police that means they'll start using them to cite traffic violations like speeding, which most Americans don't consider a crime.

To "cite traffic violations like speeding" requires someone on the ground. Sure a drone, like helicopters in use today, can spot for ground personnel they do not "cite" people.

In Virginia they still haven't answered whether or not the drones will be armed. There are serious implications if they are.

Care to cite references. I have seen articles about the Governor wanting drones but nothing about arming them. What does Virginia have to do with Washington State? Is there any mention of arming the helicopters in Seattle? This statement is an obvious Red Herring [wikipedia.org] .

But either way, constantly being watched by flying vehicles is an invasion of privacy.

Is being watched from a vehicle an invasion of privacy? Is being watched by a pedestrian an invasion of privacy? Is being watched by a traffic camera an invasion of privacy? The point is that there is no valid expectation of privacy when out doors and off your property. Can they look over your fence and into your yard? Sure, but then so can helicopters.

I have a reasonable expectation that if I go out for a drive, walk, to dinner etc, that the government is not spying on me constantly.

Unless you happen to be a major criminal the Seattle police department is not going to tie up one quarter of their drone fleet watching you. There are over 620,000 people in Seattle and only 4 drones. You just are not that important.

Crime rates are down across the country.

So are police budgets. They are trying to use technology to reduce costs while keeping watch over the people they are sworn to protect.

It seems an interesting dichotomy. On one hand we want the police on hand to watch so they can stop crimes and protect the citizens.On the other hand we do not want the police to watch us so that they do not invade our privacy. You can not have both. You can either have police watch and intervene or not watch and try to clean up after. Personally I would rather have them intervene.

Re:Helicopters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41640353)

because technically speeding isn't a crime. it is a civil fine. if speeding was a criminal offense you would have your normal constitutional protections and would be presumed innocent until proven guilty, which is the exact opposite of the way speeding fines work currently.

Re:Helicopters (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41638175)

What the fuck was all that I just read? Some sort of veiled complaint about people, maybe. Doesn't make much sense.

Drones allow automated spying on citizens. There are all sorts of privacy concerns with regards to spying on citizens. It is not about degrees of irritation, it is about degrees of ease. What about cameras everywhere with face recognition software? What about cameras in your homes? What is reasonable and what is not?

Putting flying robots in the sky that watch over us is a pretty horrible thing to some people. Even innocent people.

Re:Helicopters (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41638567)

What the fuck are you talking about? Well, yes, if the government installed cameras or listening devices in my house, I'd be pretty pissed. Nothing wrong with being offended by something like that, and if other people happen to feel the same way, well, the government would hopefully get beaten back into shape.

Re:Helicopters (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41638821)

> It's about Americans being offended and not having a built-in mechanism to force someone else to share in their frustration.

What you call "offended" other people call "freedom." This has nothing to do with being offended. It has everything to do with being left alone.

Re:Helicopters (1)

jameshofo (1454841) | more than 2 years ago | (#41639317)

There's a very good reason for someone to want the police to department to have to do something manually, such as watching someone on a corner for 6 hours. Because if that person is under suspicion of a crime then there's actually a good reason for them to be under such surveillance. Taking a GPS device and attaching it to a car and claiming you know were that person was for 6 hours after that is the jump of logic that happens, shortcuts end up getting taken on something that requires slightly more interpretation than "this is were your car was".

If you could be monitored by an automated flying camera while walking down any street for a trivial cost of the enforcement agency then why would they not monitor all activity everywhere within their control. So is that so bad? Probably, everyone would be constantly concerned about their actions even ones that were completely legal. What if we used this system for predicting behavior based on the way people went about their day? then using that data to detain people for the calculated outcome. I would not judge that as a successful thriving society, because in a successful thriving society the people in that society should not have to be monitored to maintain a semblance of peace and order.

Take the example of traffic cameras in Maryland, how they are installing cameras to watch the cameras that are there to monitor cars. The issue around this system is that it appears to be more financially motivated. So is traffic enforcement just the tax you pay for driving your car as fast as you want?

Re:Helicopters (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41637847)

Because they're quieter, more versatile and easily abused. With some of the recent innovations like with the Quadrocopter there's the possibility of them being able to physically get into places where a helicopter never would.

The concern is also that there's the potential for a very slippery slope with no obvious sense of when the push back is going to start, if it does at all. Now, if we had some idea that the constitution says that they can't do X with it and the courts will actually enforce that, I think a lot of the concern would be reduced. But SCrOTUmS seems to be fine letting the administrations do whatever they please as long as they don't make a show of not needing SCrOTUmS approval. That was the big mistake that W made, after that they started to actually assert some authority.

Re:Helicopters (2)

misexistentialist (1537887) | more than 2 years ago | (#41638135)

The black helicopters in "whisper mode" have been following you everywhere you go for decades too? I knew I wasn't crazy!

Black Helicopters! Tinfoil! GUBBERMINT SPIEZ! (3, Interesting)

TiggertheMad (556308) | more than 2 years ago | (#41638173)

Well, if you are in Seattle, you only have to worry about the police if you are a minority armed with a sword or knife. In that event, expect to get murdered by cops with guns. I expect the UAVs are probably to locate minorities armed with knives more efficiently.

But on the plus side, if you shoot at a police helicopter spying on you sans warrant with a .22 rifle, you will probably get charged with attempted murder. If you shoot at a UAV, you will get charged with destruction of private property. Yay?

Re:Black Helicopters! Tinfoil! GUBBERMINT SPIEZ! (4, Informative)

ukemike (956477) | more than 2 years ago | (#41638915)

Well, if you are in Seattle, you only have to worry about the police if you are a minority armed with a sword or knife. In that event, expect to get murdered by cops with guns. I expect the UAVs are probably to locate minorities armed with knives more efficiently.

Or if you espouse left wing political ideas, or own anarchist literature or participate in protests against authority. http://www.greenisthenewred.com/blog/fbi-raid-anarchist-literature-portland-seattle/6267/ [greenisthenewred.com]

Re:Black Helicopters! Tinfoil! GUBBERMINT SPIEZ! (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 2 years ago | (#41639751)

Well, if you are in Seattle, you only have to worry about the police if you are a minority armed with a sword or knife. In that event, expect to get murdered by cops with guns. I expect the UAVs are probably to locate minorities armed with knives more efficiently.

But on the plus side, if you shoot at a police helicopter spying on you sans warrant with a .22 rifle, you will probably get charged with attempted murder. If you shoot at a UAV, you will get charged with destruction of private property. Yay?

Shooting at a UAV sounds like terrorist activity, which is a good thing as trials and due process cost a fortune.

I would vote for these only if they make the concession that any time a private citizen sees one in the air over their land they are allowed to shoot at it with an air rifle, and that if they successfully take it down over their own property it becomes theirs.

Also, in the interests of security, any and all attempts to take one down via electronic means are allowed and encouraged, with the proviso that a successful takedown requires that the exploit be published to give the police a chance to fix the bug.

Re:Black Helicopters! Tinfoil! GUBBERMINT SPIEZ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41640067)

If you shoot a police dog, the punishment is several times more severe than if you shot some stray mutt. I'd bet dollars to doughnuts (an even bet nowadays) that shooting down a drone would be considered a felony, possibly a terrorist act.

Re:Helicopters (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41638233)

Police helicopters generally do not fly on a patrol, they fly on demand. They cost too much per hour to just fly around. Plus they are maintenance intensive, even if the money was there to burn up for fuel, they require a lot of short interval inspections which puts the bird out of action (the required work may take no more than a half day or so, but that's a half day minimum of unavailability). So when they are up there, they are going somewhere with something to do, not just fly. Usually to circle a perp or eyeball a freeway pileup or be one of the chase birds for a nut driver.

Helicopters are very noisy and in no way can perform quiet surveillance. You can load them up with cameras up the wazoo, but given that they are tethered to general aviation airports, most of the observation would be to and from corridors to said airports.

Now take drones. These are far smaller, can operate longer, and capable of being quiet enough that at mid-VFR altitudes (assuming the FAA plays ball) that they are likely to be inaudible against the usual city noise. Now you have a practical spy platform that looks into people's yards (Homeowners and rental tenants do have an expectation of privacy from observation where it's not normally humanly practical). They can be flown more frequently since the maintenance requirements are different. With a batch of them at a PD's disposal, they could be scheduled that one or two could be always up in the air in a major city 24/7. Given that they could potentially be flown so low that they can get angle shots into buildings through windows, it's a far more effective spy platform (However if it can be flown that low, it's a flight hazard now. Normally the FAA would putting the kabosh on this. However with the current atmosphere of police state mentality, the FAA will likely to roll over for law enforcement "needs").

One of two things would kill drone programs. The less certain path is that they greatly underestimated the costs of using drones, however if Police State Bob wants something, money is often magically found. The more certain path is when drones get hacked in flight and creatively dealt with - deliberately crashed, taken elsewhere, or they are flown as nuisances. If we get drone collisions with pedestrians or bicyclists or people in convertibles (I doubt the drones would be big enough and hefty enough to pose a certain lethal risk against people in public transportation or newer enclosed cars), when people are seriously hurt or killed - drone programs are likely to be killed right then and there. A helicopter can fail in flight (and have), but cannot be remotely hacked.

If the military who are operating very expensive, high performance large drones equipped with weaponry and then operating these drones with pathetic security in mind (unencrypted video, easily spoofed control systems, seriously?), like having a drone taken over and landed in Iran - you can bet civilian police models who do not have the luxury of encrypted satellite links will be pwn3d all over creation.

I do not trust the police. Any bit of technology that hands over an advantage to the police will be abused, any legal ruling that provides an inch for law enforcement will be stretched a mile wide You can expect these will be armed, with non-lethal stuff at first, but certainly will be abused. Remember how tasers were a non-lethal alternative to guns? Generally police still use guns in most situations that tasers were tasked for, but use tasers are convenient "compliance" devices, inexpensive torture devices.

Let's stop giving the police more toys to abuse the public with.

Re:Helicopters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41639535)

It is pretty clear by now, that Iran was just talking shit.

Re:Helicopters (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41638463)

Police helicopters are expensive to operate and require a pilot who is also quite expensive. Further, helicopters have limited flight time before they must land for refueling. Drones are relatively inexpensive, can stay aloft for extremely long times, and require no pilot. This makes them practical to use for surveillance purposes, which the government should not be conducting.

Re:Helicopters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41638491)

Using military equipment = declaring war

Re:Helicopters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41639467)

Dogs are classified as equipment in the military. So does that mean all dog owners are declaring war?

Re:Helicopters (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41639513)

Only if they cry 'Havoc!'

Re:Helicopters (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | more than 2 years ago | (#41640237)

I guess they have already declared war long ago. Here are some examples.
Bell 206 Jet Ranger [wikipedia.org] Bell OH-58 Kiowa [wikipedia.org]
M-16 rifles used by both police and military.
Body armor developed from military flack vests.
Grenade launchers used to launch CS canisters
An unarmed drone is just another piece of equipment

Re:Helicopters (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41638581)

Simple answer is Rule #4:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Re:Helicopters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41638741)

Helos, well you generally know they are there. Not so much with drones, high and quiet and zooming in on whomever... Think equivalent of a lidar in your back yard, for your behavior instead of driving.

Re:Helicopters (2)

gallondr00nk (868673) | more than 2 years ago | (#41638885)

I'm curious why people see this as so much worse than the police helicopters that have been in use for decades. Is it because they cost less money, and thus can be operated more frequently? Or because people associate them with the military?

Its the same problem people have with CCTV cameras or other monitoring equipment. Without proper regulations for their use by law enforcement (or private companies, for that matter), they are so cheap to buy and use that a city or country can quickly become swamped in monitoring equipment with no limits to how or where the data is used or retained.

Expense has prohibited the rollout of a panopticon, and people who are concerned about drones (myself included) see their use as another substantial lowering of that barrier. There seems to be little appetite to regulate against it, so technology is seen as the last barrier against intrusive mass surveillance.

Re:Helicopters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41639007)

Its because they can silently flyby near your house window and record you and your wife naked in details.

Re:Helicopters (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | more than 2 years ago | (#41640239)

Which has already been declared illegal in court. Any pilot caught doing this would be charged.

Re:Helicopters (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 2 years ago | (#41639053)

I'm curious why people see this as so much worse than the police helicopters that have been in use for decades.

The use of aircraft in police work dates back to 1914.

1929 The Los Angeles Police create a part time unit using the aircraft of citizens, In New York City the eleven year old voluntary unit is replaced by the first known full time Air Service Division with its own aircraft [24 October].

Police Aviation - a chronology [policeaviationnews.com]

The geek has little sense of geography.

The LAPD's jurisdiction covers 498 square miles (1,290 km2) with a population of 3,792,621 million people.

San Bernardino County has an area of 20,105.32 sq mi (52,072.5 km2). Roughly four times the size of the state of Connecticut. In some states, the county's role in law enforcement is little noticed, in other states it it looms very large.

Makes no sense (1, Insightful)

asmkm22 (1902712) | more than 2 years ago | (#41637467)

I can see quite a bit of value for the military use of drones. They put fewer pilots at risk, and it's probably cheaper to train a drone pilot than the a "real" pilot, although I could be wrong.

Using drones by the state department or law enforcement, however, makes less sense. They aren't designed to displace, say, helicopter pilots, and I doubt they'll be doing missile strikes any time soon, so the only purpose they serve is yet another way around those pesky privacy laws.

Re:Makes no sense (2)

NFN_NLN (633283) | more than 2 years ago | (#41637545)

I can see quite a bit of value for the military use of drones. They put fewer pilots at risk, and it's probably cheaper to train a drone pilot than the a "real" pilot, although I could be wrong.

... so ... are we allowed to shine green lasers at these since there is no real pilot?

Re:Makes no sense (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41638801)

I can see quite a bit of value for the military use of drones. They put fewer pilots at risk, and it's probably cheaper to train a drone pilot than the a "real" pilot, although I could be wrong.

... so ... are we allowed to shine green lasers at these since there is no real pilot?

I am a drone you insensitive clod.

Re:Makes no sense (3, Insightful)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#41637679)

I can see quite a bit of value for the military use of drones. They put fewer pilots at risk, and it's probably cheaper to train a drone pilot than the a "real" pilot, although I could be wrong.

Of course, they are trading "fewer pilots at risk" with "more people on the ground at risk". A helicopter is extremely expensive to own and operate and has a pilot on board that cares a lot about keeping himself alive (thus keeping the helicopter in the air). If they have a fleet of 6 drones that are much cheaper to operate (thus are more heavily used than helicopters), there's a higher risk that one of those drones will malfunction and crash to the ground, possibly on someone's house or car. Granted a "small" drone will cause less damage than a larger helicopter, but that's not going to make the headlines much better when a drone crashes into a crowded football stadium.

In a military operation killing a few civilians on the bad guys side is treated as a cost of war -- but what's the reaction going to be when a drone chasing a car thief crashes into a back yard birthday party?

Re:Makes no sense (4, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#41637763)

Which is precisely why the FAA hasn't approved the drones flying over populated areas. FTFA the original FAA plan required the Seattle PD to stay away from pretty much everything. The idea seemed to be that the department needed to show that they were interested and capable of using these potentially dangerous devices.

All well and good, but then the Seattle PD just dropped everything (according to the publicly available documents) and the program is sitting there, essentially collecting rust (it is Seattle after all) all the while asking for two new drones.

Seems like the Seattle PD started out OK (testing program, limited objectives) but now has backed off, shut up and wants to spend more. Perhaps their taking cues from the TSA.

Re:Makes no sense (0)

asynchronous13 (615600) | more than 2 years ago | (#41637801)

It has nothing to do with privacy laws. The main uses are for aerial pictures and search and rescue. When there's an automobile crash on the interstate, a quick aerial photograph of the accident scene lets the police clear debris off the road faster and open the road sooner. Right now, they'll send out a hook-and-ladder fire truck and send a photographer to the top of the ladder to get the aerial pictures when needed. Privacy laws remain in effect, independent of the technology used.

Re:Makes no sense (4, Insightful)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | more than 2 years ago | (#41638647)

> The main uses are for aerial pictures and search and rescue.

Yes, and the secondary uses are illegal surveillance.

Re:Makes no sense (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41639189)

It has nothing to do with privacy laws..

You are a naive fool.

Please kill yourself, the sooner the better, your kind is a liability to
the human race.

Drones (5, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 2 years ago | (#41637493)

Well, police departments have started stocking up on all kinds of military and paramilitary gear ever since the federal government started giving away excess or "out of warranty" military equipment to civilian law enforcement agencies. I mean, Texas recently took delivery of a tank. Cost? Gas. And there's pics on the internet of someone being pulled over for speeding by a giant tank.

On one hand, that's recycling and reusing, which is a sound financial principle that reduces operating costs. Given our massive debt load, this kind of thinking should be encouraged. On the other hand, there are disturbing civil rights implications when the police start amassing large quantities of military gear. It's like the old saying "When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail." We're seeing increased use of SWAT teams, no-knock search warrants, and violence by our police against the civilian population that simply wasn't present 10 or 15 years ago. I can't help but wonder if it's not just a little because they're being handed military gear by the truckload -- there's no incentive to look for less violent solutions, and that bullets cost less than tazer cartridges.

It's not that civilian law enforcement has access to, or owns, drones, or even that the military is practically giving them away that concerns me... but that there's not much incentive for less-than-lethal weapondry when letal weapons cost less (if anything). It has always cost more to protect something than destroy it. But the police are supposed to be tasked with preserving life -- taking it is a last resort. But when the only tools they're given are all made with the idea of being used against our enemies instead of our peers, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the user's thinking adapts to the tool... not the other way around.

Re:Drones (1)

PlusFiveTroll (754249) | more than 2 years ago | (#41639147)

We're seeing increased use of SWAT teams, no-knock search warrants, and violence by our police against the civilian population that simply wasn't present 10 or 15 years ago.

I assure you, it was occurring well over 15 years ago. Remember Waco was almost 20 years ago now. The difference between now and then is it's not just the groups labeled right or left wing nuts that have noticed. It has gotten far worse over time, even small police departments are 'militarized' these days. At least at this time we can still freely complain about it on the internet. Back in the early '90s you didn't hear about it so much because they news only reported what the police said happened and the people the knew the truth were talking about it at a diner over coffee.

Re:Drones (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41639219)

Thankfully there are a few cases where this tendency has at least partially backfired. Our community received an M113 type APC years ago through one such program. They got it basically free or charge, the only thing they needed to do was have a shop that specialized in them do a refurb on it and replace its standard tracks with rubber coated ones to protect roads. For years it (thankfully) was only really used in parades, at one it broke down. It was repaired and returned to its shed, a few months later they pulled it out for something and it broke down again. By then the economic downturn had entered its full swing and with budgets tightening it was shoved back into its shed to await a less volatile climate in which to ask for more funds to fix it. As budgets tightened more and more it became a public debacle along with our ERT (SWAT), costing millions of dollars and being used to knock over 50 year old couples growing weed and paraded out during holidays. The ERT was shut down (but their gear was stored for future use) and the tank will likely be sold or given back to the army. A costly lesson but hopefully one which will not soon be forgotten.

Re:Drones (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#41639469)

And there's pics on the internet of someone being pulled over for speeding by a giant tank.

lol that's hilarious. I would speed just so I could get pulled over. It can't be good for the roads, though.

Knowing Mayor McGinn... (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 2 years ago | (#41637525)

He probably wants the drones to spy on the contractors digging the new highway 99 tunnel. He's hoping to catch one misstep so - BAM! - he can shut them down!

Or maybe SPD found out there are more woodcarvers [seattlepi.com] than they thought, so they want the ability to monitor them all in case another one goes rogue.

Re:Knowing Mayor McGinn... (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#41638883)

That's why the residents of Seattle love bus and traffic tunnels: Follow me now, biatch!

City or Town Drones (3, Funny)

Dantoo (176555) | more than 2 years ago | (#41637605)

Local records office is full of them. Went there to submit house plans and though I had a go, I found I lacked the skills to even manipulate one to the counter. They seemed to be aimless and uncontrollable which is probably why the local authority had them stored in the one building. I am fairly sure that 150k would be a bargain for a new one. A lot of these were older models and possibly cost as much as that to maintain annually. Fully autonomous advanced models for their day though, so I left fervently hoping that the powers would let them all loose soon during a value-for-money drive.

Maybe not so bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41637617)

For the price of one of these drones, you get maybe 2 or 3 cops for one year. Which is more efficient for preventing and/or solving crimes in the public space?

Re:Maybe not so bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41638417)

Would the answer be "Neither!" ?

No Voters Necessary...or Cops, Criminals either (2)

Bob_Who (926234) | more than 2 years ago | (#41637761)

Let's just outsource citizens while we're at it. Who cares about actual people when the objective of the paramilitary complex is to make a sale. Capitalism mixed with armed civil servitude in a budget crisis, what a great idea!

Re:No Voters Necessary...or Cops, Criminals either (1)

Fnord666 (889225) | more than 2 years ago | (#41638433)

Let's just outsource citizens while we're at it.

Someone must have watched Surrogates lately.

Save money, buy later (2)

NewtonsLaw (409638) | more than 2 years ago | (#41637821)

Why buy them before you're going to use them?

This technology is advancing so rapidly that anything you buy *today* will cost half the price in a couple of month's time and be twice as capable.

There's a Moore's law involved here so it seems stupid to tie up capital in something that will be unused and depreciating at such a rapid rate.

Think of all the donuts and coffee they could buy for that money!

The Draganflyer X6 Is A Toy Helicopter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41637823)

$150,000?!?!? P.T. Barnum put it best. Given the actual situation here, which is that the smart snake oil salesman at the draganflyer.com toy store have managed to come up with a way to fleece cities for crappy little radio controlled helis with cameras on them, I'm actually all for this. Maybe I can sell the SPD a reprap machine for $25,000 as a way to fabricate replacement parts for their Draganflyer X6 when they hit a twig and break some parts off it.

snake oil department (1)

nazsco (695026) | more than 2 years ago | (#41638701)

Not even a snake oil salesman... a snake oil department!

http://www.draganfly.com/uav-helicopter/draganflyer-x6/ [draganfly.com]

Grant Assistance

The Department of Homeland Security makes grants available to states, local and tribal jurisdictions, and other regional authorities to assist in planning, equipment purchase, training, and exercise needs. Draganfly Innovations will provide grant writing support, consultation, and assistance to qualified agencies.
Contact Kevin, our grant assistance specialist,
  Call 1-800-979-9794 or 306-955-9907 (ext. 6111)

Ok here's what we do... (3, Insightful)

isomer1 (749303) | more than 2 years ago | (#41637879)

We, as concerned budget conscious citizens, point out that these drones can do the work of 10 ordinary beat officers (10,15 whatever the number is irrelevant). This, we continue, allows the county/city/state to reduce the number of officers on payroll. Then we sit back and watch the police union take care of problem for us.

Da Seattle Police (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41638005)

If ya wanna know about the Seattle Police Department ask the black and hispanic community. The black community has for years fought successfully against having a "local" precinct placed in the middle of their neighborhood. Racist pigs. Check Youtube also. The Police have starring roles there.

No Dronios in San Antonio (1)

zenlessyank (748553) | more than 2 years ago | (#41638207)

We have like 3 (maybe more for u anal factoid types) Air Force Bases and several airports, and C-5 Galaxies flying overhead all day and all night. Who needs a drone?

Re:No Dronios in San Antonio (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#41638867)

We (in Seattle) have one airport within city limits (Boeing Field), several commercial float plane operations on local lakes plus the approach patterns for SeaTac airport and Renton Municipal overhead.

I think we can do without the airspace competition from unpiloted junk as well.

And Yet Mysteriously.... (3, Funny)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 2 years ago | (#41638335)

... property taxes alone on an American are higher than the annual living wage in many countries. How this can be defies explanation!

Re:And Yet Mysteriously.... (2)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 2 years ago | (#41638669)

property taxes alone on an American are higher than the annual living wage in many countries. How this can be defies explanation!

No it doesn't. The standard of living is higher here. Don't be an idiot.

Re:And Yet Mysteriously.... (1)

shiftless (410350) | more than 2 years ago | (#41639649)

The standard of living is higher here.

You sure about that?

Re:And Yet Mysteriously.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41639035)

It probably defies explanation to you.
Others can be made to realize that north americans, europeans, and in fact, most of the civilized world don't live in mud huts in the middle of a desert. Things like running water and electricity help too.
Paved roads cost a little extra. And having your garbage hauled away instead of piled in your backyard, is just good manners.
You fucking moron.

Re:And Yet Mysteriously.... (1)

MysteriousPreacher (702266) | more than 2 years ago | (#41640301)

It's insane. How come a run of the mill dinner at a restaurant would cost me near enough 20 euro, while in Somalia that'd be dinner for a warlord and the most trusted members of his personal army. Lets see done elitist book learnin' boffin explain that!

Palin/Trump in 2019!

I know Seattle is eager to spend its new pot money (1)

Eightbitgnosis (1571875) | more than 2 years ago | (#41638507)

.... after cannabis is legalized in November, but don't spend this money just because you can

My city uses drones (1)

Freddybear (1805256) | more than 2 years ago | (#41638715)

They sit on the city council.

These may not last long... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41638935)

Wait until the kids of any age discover how to crash their $100 microdrone Xmas gifts into a Seattle PD drone and bring it down. I am guessing that it will be very difficult for SPD to find them, too.

Seattle PD has been creepy since at least 2000 (3, Insightful)

WarSpiteX (98591) | more than 2 years ago | (#41639019)

I have only flown through Seattle and never really spent more than about 6 hours in the city proper (outside the airport), yet I was creeped out by their police as early as 2000 - long before the stories of abuse came out. Here's why:

I'm coming off my flight in Seattle for the first time and waiting for another, when all of a sudden, interrupting the normal announcements, the speakers across the airport are blaring out "DO NOT WORRY, CITIZENS! THE POLICE AND FIRE DEPARTMENTS ARE HERE TO ASSIST YOU." This was over a year before 9/11 so it never occurred to me that some sort of terrorist attack had happened, and as far as I knew, the police in Seattle had done nothing notable to rile up the citizenry. Yet the fact that they felt the need to reassure me every 10 minutes (for 3 hours...) that they're here to help me was the weirdest thing ever.

That is all.

Re:Seattle PD has been creepy since at least 2000 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41640081)

You know, you're in serious shit if a government official starts with "Do not worry."

Lasers will blind the drone video cameras (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41639183)

Of course you should not do this, I was just mentioning this as an interesting
scientific fact.

Qui bono? (1)

gweihir (88907) | more than 2 years ago | (#41639303)

And then make sure the scumbag spends a few years behind bars for accepting advantage.

ugh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41639339)

as one living within 30min of seattle, this article scares the shit out of me.

Shoot. Them. Down. (1)

mrscott (548097) | more than 2 years ago | (#41639673)

I'm not generally antigovernment, but where drones (and the TSA) are concerned, I'm appalled that people are simply sitting back and allowing constant government aerial surveillance to simply go unchecked. Frankly, I hope that people start shooting them down. They have no place outside a war zone. Scott

EMP grenades (1)

sepiroth (598780) | more than 2 years ago | (#41640341)

Finally I can put all the FPS training to use.
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