It's beginning to look like surveillance drones are destined to become a routine part of police operations in the US. Alameda County—home to Oakland and Berkeley—is the latest to sign on, with Sheriff Greg Ahern planning to buy a small, unmanned drone to help with things like search-and-rescue missions, SWAT operations, and pot busts, reports the Oakland Tribune. The cost would be somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000, but the FAA still must approve.
The AP says four other police agencies already have gotten FAA approval to train employees to operate drones—Miami, Seattle, Arlington, and Mesa County, Colorado, though only the latter has the green light to use them on a regular basis. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the ACLU, and other privacy advocates are worried about flying cameras peering down on backyards and want Alameda County to provide more details on how the drone might be used. Congress, meanwhile, has ordered the FAA to come up with regulations by 2015.