US Cops Eye Drone Patrols
FAA preparing new rules to allow domestic use of drones
By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser User
Posted Nov 28, 2011 12:54 AM CST
Chinese police load a unmanned drone aircraft as Beijing unveiled its first unmanned opium reconnaissance plane. A US police version could soon come to a neighborhood near you.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – Meet your science-fiction future. Drones may soon be deployed over your sky, courtesy of your local police force. The Federal Aviation Administration is in the process of paving the way for use of the terror-busting devices on domestic soil, reports the Los Angeles Times. And it's not only police, but farmers and utility companies that could soon be deploying drones. "It's going to happen," said Dan Elwell, vice president of civil aviation at the Aerospace Industries Association. "Now it's about figuring out how to safely assimilate the technology into national airspace."

The FAA is proposing new regulations next month to make it happen. The agency has issued 266 limited testing permits for civilian drone applications, but hasn't yet permitted drones in national airspace in a wider arena. Officials have safety concerns about drones, which also threaten to invade citizens' privacy. Police departments in Texas, Florida, and Minnesota have already expressed interest in the technology, and a military drone company is hoping to soon market their devices to all 18,000 police forces in the US. "The technology is here, and it isn't going away. It will increasingly play a role in our lives," says Peter W. Singer, an author of a book on robotic warfare. "The real question is: How do we deal with it?"