Big Brother Drones Are Watching ... Us
Spy planes being used to fight floods, fires
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 13, 2011 2:52 AM CDT
A Predator drone gets ready for takeoff from Fort Huachuca, Ariz,. on a US Customs Border Patrol border mission.   (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, file)

(Newser) – The same kind of unmanned spy drones used to track militants in the badlands of Afghanistan and Pakistan is finding a growing number of uses in the US. Predator drones, already used to patrol America's borders with Mexico and Canada, are being used to fight fires, survey flood damage, and inspect infrastructure "People are constantly coming up and wanting a piece of that Predator pie," the chief of Customs and Border Protection air operations in Arizona tells the Los Angeles Times.

Using a drone to check for damage to levees prevented a flood that would have washed away dozens of homes in Minnesota earlier this year, officials say. Aviation security experts, however, fear that increased drone use will endanger commercial aircraft, and privacy experts warn that few guidelines exist to limit drone use. Their use over the US "leaves the gates wide open for a dramatic increase in surveillance of American life," warns an ACLU technology analyst.