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Domestic Droning for Dollars!

Just another VERY BAD IDEA of capitalism: fill the friendly skies of the United States with tens of thousands of unfriendly drone aircraft.


Two main reasons: 1) There is a lot of MONEY to be made by drone makers and the congressional representatives from their districts (SEVERAL of them in California) and 2) a lot of people still CONFUSE “knowledge” with “POWER,” believing that if they can OBSERVE an activity, that they can CONTROL it (patently not true, but obsessive control freaks remain unconvinced 😉 ). says:

The drone makers have sought congressional help to speed their entry into a domestic market valued in the billions. The 60-member House of Representatives’ “drone caucus” – officially, the House Unmanned Systems Caucus – has helped push that agenda. And over the past four years, caucus members have drawn nearly $8 million in drone-related campaign contributions, an investigation by Hearst Newspapers and the Center for Responsive Politics <CRP> shows.

The Federal Aviation Administration has been flooded with applications from police departments, universities, private corporations and even the celebrity gossip site TMZ, all seeking to use drones that range from devices the size of a hummingbird to full-size aircraft like those used by the U.S. military to target al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan and elsewhere.

What began with domestic drones performing limited patrols of the boundaries of the United States (I opposed THAT use, too.) for the Customs and Border Patrol authorities expanded, almost inevitably (which is why I opposed the limited use) into the “…passage of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, signed into law Feb. 14. The law requires the FAA to fully integrate the unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, into national airspace by September 2015.” Potential uses for unmanned aircraft, which are cheaper to operate than manned aircraft include: finding lost hikers, monitoring powerlines and pipelines, and assessing damage from natural disasters. However, the schedule is VERY aggressive, and the “… FAA has predicted that 30,000 drones could be flying in the United States in less than 20 years, sharing space with commercial, military and general aviation.

However, drones potentially pose a MAJOR SAFETY ISSUE! continues:

An FAA official, who spoke on background, said “one of the main safety issues” with drones is lack of ability to “sense and avoid other aircraft.”

A September report by the Government Accountability Office identified the same concern: “Obstacles include the inability … to sense and avoid other airborne objects in a manner similar to manned aircraft.”

In addition, the GAO report said, “Concerns about national security, privacy and interference with Global Positioning System signals have not been resolved.”

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta told a conference on drones earlier this year in Las Vegas that the agency is making progress working through the issues. FAA is working with “collision avoidance experts” from the Defense Department, NASA and private firms to determine what standards and requirements should be set.

What happens when you “follow the money,” as someone might do in a criminal investigation? 😉

House members from California, Texas, Virginia and New York on the bipartisan “drone caucus” received the lion’s share of the funds channeled to lawmakers from dozens of firms that are members of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, Hearst and CRP found.

Eleven “drone caucus” lawmakers from California, where many aviation firms are located, received more than $2.4 million from manufacturers during the 2012 and 2010 election cycles, according to CRP tabulation of Federal Election Commission reports.

Eight Texas House members in the caucus received more than $746,000. And five caucus members from New York got more than $400,000 from companies connected to the business of unmanned vehicles. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, said drone manufacturers contribute just as other interest groups do.

“We get contributions from media PACs, from teachers, from doctors and from a whole lot of companies that produce drones,” Cuellar said.

The House “drone caucus” was established three years ago. Senate lawmakers followed suit this fall.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., co-chairman of the fledgling Senate “drone caucus,” said the caucus would help frame future legislation because the use of drones “carries great potential – and great risk.”

I think that the “logic” 😉 of Representative Cuellar (How do we ELECT so many people who cannot THINK clearly? And remember, he is a Deomocrat!) breaks down when you consider that teachers and doctors (I cannot say for certain about media PACs 😉 ) are NOT generally involved in activities that threaten the safety and Constitutional Rights of large numbers of Americans. Unfortunately, drone companies ARE, if the drones are used for domestic surveillance over the United States.

According to, Cuellar’s faulty logic does not stop THERE!

Cuellar also said the purpose of the House caucus is to educate other members on the need for and uses of drones for public safety, border enforcement, search-and-rescue and commercial uses. The global market for drones is expected to double in the next decade, from $6.6 billion to $11.4 billion, and could top $2.4 billion in the United States alone, said Philip Finnegan, director of corporate analysis with the Teal Group, an independent research group that studies the industry.

Greed and power are strong motivators, PARTICULARLY among those who do not think clearly.

Then there is the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, or AUVSI, which represents drone and systems manufacturers and which has been particularly generous to Republican drone caucus members, a group that received 74% of AUVSI’s contributions, according to CRP! CRP also showed that companies with drones currently used by the military, but with potential civilian applications, were among the largest donors to caucus members. says:

In the House, the top recipient was Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Santa Clarita (Los Angeles County), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. He received $833,650 in drone-related campaign contributions.

McKeon and Cuellar are co-chairmen of the caucus.

Other California Republicans – Reps. Darrell Issa, R-Vista (San Diego County); Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands (San Bernardino County); Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine (San Diego County); and Ken Calvert, R-Corona (Riverside County) – each received more than $200,000 from drone firms.

So… who is DONATING all of this money?

The largest donors

Those firms include BAE Systems, which makes the Mantis and Taranis drones; Boeing Co., maker of the hydrogen-fueled Phantom Eye; Honeywell International, RQ-16 T-Hawk; Lockheed Martin, RQ-170 Sentinel; Raytheon Co., Cobra; and General Atomics, Predator.

I once blogged about the now-famous June 2011 incident in which Rodney Bossart became the first U.S. Citzen arrested on nonterrorism-related charges with the assistance of national security surveillance (a Predator drone).

“Based on current trends, technology development, law enforcement interest, political and industry pressure, and the lack of legal safeguards – it is clear that drones pose a looming threat to Americans’ privacy,” <Jay> Stanley <a senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union> said.

Oddly enough, 😉 SOME elected officials are interested in the Constitutional protections afforded by the (little-heard-from-lately) Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights, which (at least in principle) “…governs when, where and how the government can gather information on an individual, including whether officials need a search warrant before acting.

Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Tenn., have crafted legislation to put a tight rein on drone use.

Privacy advocates note that not just the police, but individuals and commercial enterprises will be using the devices. TMZ’s application for a permit is an illustration. Paparazzi are already using small drones on the Riviera to shoot photos of celebrities in otherwise hard-to-access areas. TMZ “does not have a permit” yet, FAA officials said last week.

Texas’ Poe has offered another bill, which would ban private citizens from using drones to spy on other citizens and strictly limit law enforcement use of drones. “The Constitution limits eavesdropping, snooping and spying on American citizens,” Poe said.

Yes, Mr. Poe, it does. But as we have seen with the actions of telecommunications companies, cell phone hardware and software manufacturers, and law enforcement, the document of the Constitution requires real, living, breathing men and women to protect and defend its principles.

-Bill at

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