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Unmanned Aerial Drones Coming Soon Above U.S. 841

Posted by samzenpus
from the the-eye-in-the-sky dept.
cnet-declan writes "Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have been flying over Iraq and Afghanistan, but now the Bush administration wants to use them for domestic surveillance. A top Homeland Security official told Congress today, according to this CNET News.com article, that: "We need additional technology to supplement manned aircraft surveillance and current ground assets to ensure more effective monitoring of United States territory." One county in North Carolina is already using UAVs to monitor public gatherings. But what happens when lots of relatively dumb drones have to share airspace with aircraft carrying passengers? A pilot's association is worried."
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Unmanned Aerial Drones Coming Soon Above U.S.

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  • by mongoose(!no) (719125) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @10:17PM (#15022911)
    At major events in Israel, they already use unmanned blimps to monitor it from a distance. If they can keep it out of commericial airspace, it shouldn't be a problem.
    • by O_at_TT (953533) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @11:47PM (#15023407) Homepage

      ...and NASA plans to do it too for terrain mapping purposes (presumably within US borders):

      http://esto.nasa.gov/obs_technologies_uavsar.html [nasa.gov]

      UAVs are something we're going to have to get used to. Up next: pilotless passenger planes. Most modern aircraft are already equipped with auto-takeoff, auto-pilot (cruise), and auto-land. What more do you need? The ability to control them from the ground? That's being worked on for security reasons.

      -Oliver / TreasureTunes.com [treasuretunes.com]

    • by babbling (952366) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @12:13AM (#15023546)
      Shouldn't be a problem for who?

      Are they armed? How long until they are?
    • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @12:17AM (#15023571) Homepage Journal
      Israel does not have the Bill of Rights. It does have borders completely surrounded by hostile neighbors, including daily rocket attacks and suicide bombs, many originating within its territory.

      Israel has lots of unamerican "problems", like a state religion and the draft. We don't want those things here.
      • Let's be careful that we don't overstate this issue. Saying unmanned reconnaisance is unconstitutional is not accurate. There is no difference constitutionally between manned aircraft and unmanned.



        The angst here is against the Bush administration's policies, not unmanned drones.



        Arguing the wrong point weakens the real discussion.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 30, 2006 @09:30AM (#15025491)
        Apparently taking over somebody's homeland will piss some people off. Who knew?
      • Israel does not have the Bill of Rights. It does have borders completely surrounded by hostile neighbors, including daily rocket attacks and suicide bombs, many originating within its territory.

        Israel has boarders? Where are they, exactly?

        Israel has lots of unamerican "problems", like a state religion and the draft. We don't want those things here.

        Lets put a simple list together:
        1) Administrative detention without charge or trial.
        2) Turture of prisoners
        3) Racial segragation (in that the Israeli Arabs ha
    • by PPGMD (679725) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @12:45AM (#15023741) Journal
      Actually the US already uses blimps for radar coverage of the Gulf of Mexico and US-Mexico border. They are called Aerostat, they require restricted airspace and calm weather to fly, very calm weather. If I remember correctly the best Aerostat station has just under 70% availability (with most stations around 50%), sure thats great compared to the cost of keeping a US Border patrol EP-3 flying or an USAF E-3 flying, but I don't think it gives the coverage that the Department of Homeland security wants.

      Personally I am mixed on this program, I believe that border security needs to be strengthened but at a pilot I am kind of scared of being forced to share airspace with UAVs, and the pop-up TFRs that go with them.

      TFRs are the bane of private pilots because they are often short notice, large enough to be an inconvenience, but small enough that you can transit most of the center of what they are trying to protect in under a minute, and Part 121 and often part 135 traffic is most often exempted (the aircraft that can do the most damage). Here in Florida for the shuttle launches we have 24 hour TFRs (the TFR is post 9/11 NASA had used a set of restricted airspace that was much smaller or oriented downrange), that are so large that it cuts off East coast VFR corridor between Orlando's Class B airspace and the ADIZ. Forcing pilots to fly an obstacle course of TFR, restricted, and controlled airspace to get to their destination.

      • by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Thursday March 30, 2006 @11:26AM (#15026154) Homepage Journal

        TFR == Temporary Flight Restriction, a short-term restriction on flight in a specified area.

        VFR == Visual Flight Rules. Flying by looking out the window rather than using instruments to maintain separation from terrain and other aircraft.

        ADIZ == Air Defense Identification Zone. Airspace which is prohibited to aircraft who have not obtained prior authorization. In theory, violators will be shot down.

        Part 121 traffic. Dunno.

        Part 135 traffic. Dunno.

        Class B airspace. Dunno.

        • by voidptr (609) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @12:05PM (#15026474) Homepage Journal
          Part 121: The section of the Federal Aviation Regulations specifying rules for regularly scheduled commercial airliner traffic. Delta, AirTran, etc. operate under these rules.

          Part 135: The section of the Federal Aviation Regulations specifying rules for non-scheduled Charter/Air Taxi operations. These range from anything from large piston singles to Lear Jets being operated on a for-hire basis as-needed.

          Class B Airspace: Airspace designation around large major airports or clusters. BWI/Dulles/National and JFK/Newark/La Guardia are each under B airspace. It has certain control requirements for any pilots wishing to enter, including clearance and two-way radio contact from the ATC facility controlling it and an altitude-encoding transponder.
        • Part 121 is the section of Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) that covers scheduled air carrier service (think Delta and the like)
          Part 135 is the section of FARs that covers charter service, these are mostly smaller operators
          Other examples you might here is part 61, this is the section that deals with the certification of pilots, part 91, contains most of the flight related law for most pilots, pilots flying under part 121 and part 135 still follow all of the same rules under part 91 (though some rules m
    • The comment on Israel is informative but the idea of 'commercial airspace' is so off the mark it doesn't even make sense.

      I'm a pilot and I can tell you that there is no such thing as commercial airspace. When I take off and fly I can go pretty much anywhere I want. Sure, there are different types of airspace that require ATC clearance to enter, but there is not such beast as commercial airspace.

      Unless these Drones can 'see and avoid' just like other VFR aircraft they should not be permitted access to the
      • by Keebler71 (520908) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @11:10AM (#15026050) Journal
        I have extensive experience with military UAVs and can address at least a couple of these. Currently the military does control smaller UAVs without rated pilots at the controls provided the UAVs stay within restricted airspace. For Global Hawk, which primarily operates within the FAS but above the jetways, there exists an agreement (COA) that requires the pilots to be commercial-instrument rated. Climbs and descents to/from altitude occur within restricted airspace, but once above, the GH can pretty much go wherever (subject to the same restrictions placed on any other high-altitude aircraft, IFR aircraft). Oh, and the GH pilots are required to fly manned aircraft as well to maintain their proficiency as per the FARs.
    • by Bob3141592 (225638) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @10:24AM (#15025764) Homepage
      UAVs are something we're going to have to get used to. Up next: pilotless passenger planes. Most modern aircraft are already equipped with auto-takeoff, auto-pilot (cruise), and auto-land. What more do you need? The ability to control them from the ground? That's being worked on for security reasons.

      That's a terrible idea, especially if you think it will improve security. Quite the opposite. All you need is one terrorist hacker to break into the system and grab control. Then instead of an attack by four planes you have every plane in the air becoming a weapon and/or target at the same time.
  • Wryness (Score:3, Interesting)

    by (1+-sqrt(5))*(2**-1) (868173) <1.61803phi@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @10:18PM (#15022913) Homepage
    The effects of surveillant tyranny are subtle; amongst the Soviets, for example, lorded a pervasive wryness. An old joke ran:
    The Bolsheviks liberated us at last from liberty itself.
    Much more worrisome, therefore, than the evidence of surveillant tyranny, is the wryness of ensuing “in Soviet America” jokes.
  • Now you won't be considered paranoid if you believe there are black helicopters outside your window observing your every move. It might be true!

    Woe oh woe... how will we tell the real lunies from the fake ones, if they really ARE watching you?
  • by bogie (31020) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @10:19PM (#15022922) Journal
    Boil a frog slowly...

    My new sig seems even more appropriate than usual.
  • huzzah (Score:5, Funny)

    by MORTAR_COMBAT! (589963) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @10:21PM (#15022925)
    hail skynet.
  • by RedACE7500 (904963) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @10:21PM (#15022927)
    But what happens when lots of relatively dumb drones have to share airspace with aircraft carrying passengers? Hilarity ensues...
  • by Motherfucking Shit (636021) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @10:21PM (#15022929) Journal
    First it was the domestic wiretap issue; the administration not only didn't deny doing it, they flat-out flaunted it. Now they want to put unmanned drones in the air to watch God-knows-what. There's no longer even a pretense, a facade, even the slightest attempt to hide the surveillance society.

    I thought that actions like appropriating the military for civilian law enforcement, spying on US citizens within the US, etc. were illegal. Why doesn't anyone seem to give a shit anymore?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @10:33PM (#15022995)
      Nobody in America gives a shit for several reasons.

      The first is the same bread-and-circuses problem that plagued the Roman Empire. As long as they have beer and football, Mountain Dew and XBox, or their cell phones and MTV, most Americans are quite content.

      The second is a lousy mass media. Many people who might take a stand against anti-freedom activities such as this aren't even aware of the issue, just because it isn't reported well by major news outlets.

      The third is a lack of understanding. Low-quality history lessons in schools, often teaching what amounts to idealistic propaganda, have resulted in many youths (and now adults) not even being able to comprehend the issues at hand. They are unaware of how such 'security' measures were the hallmarks of numerous totalitarian regimes, just in the 20th century alone.

      It's a multifaceted problem, and no solution is readily available.

      • by nido (102070) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <65odin>> on Thursday March 30, 2006 @02:49AM (#15024259) Homepage
        It's a multifaceted problem, and no solution is readily available.

        The way I see it, the problem is by design. It's well known that there's been a lot of "media consolidation" over the past few decades, so that the major outlets are controlled in the hands of a few corporations (e.g. Clearchannel).

        John Taylor Gatto [johntaylorgatto.com] tells us in his books & presentations that the government's schools were set up to provide workers for industry. Before government schools, the American dream was an independant livelihood. After government schools, the expectation shifted to finding employment with a good company with good benefits.

        The problem is that the same group of people are behind both efforts. Is it really so odd to propose that a small, dedicated group of families has been steadily concentrating wealth in their own pockets for centuries?

        Furthermore, why is it that the same group of rotten scoundrels install themselves in government? George H. W. Bush was in the CIA at least as far back as the 60's. Head of the CIA, Vice President for 8 years, president for another 4.

        Donald Rumsfeld [wikipedia.org] was in the Nixon, Ford & Reagan administrations, according to Wikipedia. He even got his picture taken [gwu.edu] with Saddam Hussein back in 1983. Now he's secretary of defense. Dick Cheney was Secretary of Defense under Papa Bush, and before that he got himself elected as representative from Wyoming.

        I'm sure there are more examples. The problem, as I see it, is that the same rotten bastards keep getting recycled through the political system. Watch for the keywords: Project for the New American Century, Bilderburg Group, Trilateral Commission, Council on Foreign Relations, etc... And that's not even mentioning the more secretive enclaves. See The Controllers: Secret Rulers of the World [amazon.com] for a timeline of the consolidation of power over the last 100+ years.

        What's more, anytime this sort of observation comes up, the masses have been conditioned to just snicker and dismiss the messenger as a "conspiracy theorist". But how do said masses know that there is no conspiracy? They don't "know", but social conditioning has implanted a nearly impervious belief.

        Expose the so-called "illuminati" and their plots, and the problem will begin to go away.
    • by ModernGeek (601932) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @11:01PM (#15023152) Homepage
      Everybody is blinded by the media and by schools. Teachers are threatened by the government, and are forced to spread the propaganda to our children, and it is even starting to happen in Universities. Patriotism is being turned into extremism. History teachers and professors know about it, people who read the news from free media outlets such as this one know about it, but the masses cannot even fathom the idea that our government is corrupt and are fixated into this mindset that if a superior (President, Media, Retail Salesman) tells them something, that they must obey and follow. Any out-speak or saying different to them is seen as uncivilized and outrageous.
    • by Espressoman (8032) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @11:16PM (#15023225)
      Well from the perspective of most people outside the U.S.A., Americans seem to be happy with a powerful, corrupt government controlled by corporate and military interests. You voted one of those space monkeys from the 60's in as President, and seem to be a country to be utterly sucked in by the lies you are told, no matter how laughable they are.

      Your take on democracy is a joke, and you don't seem to care while your over-inflated military launches illegal invasions against countries with oil or strategic significance. Your secret service and other agencies and corporations prop up dictators while it suites them (e.g. Saddam Hussein, Pervez Musharraf, the Israeli occupation of Palestine, the Teliban), giving them power, sophisticated weapons of mass destruction (missiles, illegal armaments, fighter jets), all while turning a blind eye to their various crimes (genocide, drug trafficking, torture, etc.), and of course giving them lots and lots of money.

      You don't care about corruption at home (e.g. Florida vote rigging), you don't care about inaction at home (e.g. New Orleans), you don't care that you have a completely insane attitude to firearms (everybody should have one (which the rest of the world sees as ludicrous)), drugs (the war on drugs can be won, all pot smokers are criminals, drug abuse is a disease (for crying out loud)), etc., etc.), and you actually voted in George W. Bush. Is that guy really the very best example of humanity you could find to be your surpreme leader?

      To the rest of the Western world, and then some, the U.S. is a country of lazy, fat, stupid, nut jobs who are too pathetic to question their leaders, question their government, or question the U.S. democratic system which keeps things as bad as they are. You are quite simply hopeless. All (a very few of) you do is winge and wonder how your rights could be slowly ebbing away and why nobody cares. Well *YOU* don't care, or you'd be protesting in the streets, you'd be throwing down your governement, you'd be routing out corruption, you'd curtail the corporations who would otherwise bleed the world dry for the sake of their shareholders' greed.
      • you don't care that you have a completely insane attitude to firearms (everybody should have one (which the rest of the world sees as ludicrous)) ... you'd be throwing down your governement

        Won't the weapons come in handy when rebelling? In fact, isn't that the reason the right to bear arms is constitutionally protected, so that the people will be able to overthrow their government?

        You don't care about corruption at home (e.g. Florida vote rigging) ... and you actually voted in George W. Bush.

        If the vo
      • by baKanale (830108) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @06:25AM (#15024968)
        you don't care that you have a completely insane attitude to firearms (everybody should have one (which the rest of the world sees as ludicrous))

        1.) Not every American has a gun. In fact, there are many who think that noone should even have so much as a pointy stick. We also have to go through an extensive (by some measures too extensive, by others not extensive enough) system of registration and permit application, depending on the class of weapon. We ban the mentally ill, criminals, and many other people from owning firearms.

        2.) Depending on the numbers you use, the United States has fewer violent crimes than many other nations (I don't remember the exact details, however. I am sorry), and that crimes such as muggings and home invasions are down due to the fact that many criminals are afraid of being shot. Of course, like many numbers, these are subject to debate, so we can practically ignore them. But still, it is a compelling possibility. However, it is a documented fact that in many countries where gun possession is illegal, knife and other weapon crimes increase substantially.

        3.) So most of the rest of the civilized world thinks our gun policies are "ludicrous"? Switzerland [wikipedia.org] actually has a required period of military service for all able males, and many afterwards serve in a militia capacity, and are therefore ISSUED an assault rifle by the government. Also, it is the "only country in which it is lawful to make your own black powder". From what I gather they have quite a low crime rate. Australia [wikipedia.org] also has historically lax laws on guns due to high need for guns as pest control and a low crime rate, which is kinda funny for a nation decended from a penal colony. That is changing due to increased crime rates in some areas, but still, they're relatively hands-off on guns. Finland [wikipedia.org] also has similar gun laws, as they have alot of huntil in their nation. They are also one of the few countries where silencers are completely unregulated (here in the US I believe you can apply for a permit, but not always, and it's very difficult to get). Many of these countries also have a high emphasis on gun safety, which many of the true hardcore gun people in the US would also say is very important.

        In conclusion, our gun laws may be among the more "loose" or "unrestrictive", and there are many unfortunate things that happen due to this. Personally, I think we could due to have slightly better control of the situation and tighten certain parts of our gun laws up. But we're not the only ones who like our guns. There are a number of other, well respected nations, that have fairly loose gun laws, much like our own. We're only a target on this matter because we're the biggest nation of the bunch, and we have a large imprint on the world scene in other matter.

        drugs (the war on drugs can be won, all pot smokers are criminals, drug abuse is a disease (for crying out loud))

        It could be won, but even if it can't we should still fight it to at least reduce the damage done. Drug abuse is a disease, much like manic depression and other mental disorders are diseases (for example, cocaine abuse renders the brain incapable of gaining any joy from anything but cocaine. That's why it's called abuse, boys and girls. As for the pot-heads, perhaps our laws are a bit too heavy on them, and that maybe it should be legalized along the same lines as alcohol and tobacco, but frankly I don't know enough about the situation to make a judgement.

        You don't care about corruption at home (e.g. Florida vote rigging), you don't care about inaction at home (e.g. New Orleans)

        O RLY? I was pretty sure I heard much angry debate about both issues over here!

        and you actually voted in George W. Bush. Is that guy really the v
      • Well from the perspective of most people outside the U.S.A., Americans seem to be happy with a powerful, corrupt government controlled by corporate and military interests.

        Of course that is possible... but it is also possible that foreigners are misinformed. Which is more likely? If I believed half of what I read in the Guardian, I'd hate America too.

    • by SickFreak (578067) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @02:30AM (#15024197)
      I hope I am not the only one tired of this type of shit. If "security" means I have to have drones flying over me to keep watch on me, then no, George and Co., I don't want to be secure. Thanks for asking.
  • by DAldredge (2353) <SlashdotEmail@GMail.Com> on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @10:23PM (#15022937) Journal
    We can't control our own borders but we will use tech like this to monitor our own citizens...

    Anyone else find that just a little weird?
  • The imagery brought to mind by this makes me think of a handicapped dude in a Pontiac Aztek...or, uh, something.
  • This reminds me of the scene in "They Live [netflix.com]" where the protaganist finds some sunglasses that lets him see through the hypnotic haze created by the "capitalist" aliens and and finds there's this little UFO shaped thing following him around with a camera trained on him -- which he then blows away with a shotgun.
  • According to the Weekly Piracy Report [icc-ccs.org] there are UAVs watching our oceans, so what makes you think they're not already watching us too?
  • by ShadowNetworks (915967) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @10:35PM (#15023010)
    The US is made of thousands upon thousands of immigrant. Very few of us are native. The current political and powers that be want everyone watched 24x7. It's scary to think that we'd spy on our own citizens just to protect them. But if we allow such things as domestic USVs, what's next? Tracking chips implanted in everyone? I don't know where this is all headed, but there are some crazy politicians and military forces out there that think they should play god to their own citizens. In times like these, we need to consider the repercussions of our actions. I hate to see this ever happen on American soil.
  • But can they run Linux?
  • It's time to wrap my umbrella in tinfoil and use it every day. At least it's more comfortable than the tinfoil hat.
  • How high do these things fly above ground ? Are then within rifle range ? :) Skeet shooting could take on a whole new perspective!
  • *cough* border patrol *cough*
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @10:50PM (#15023087)
    "The issue came to head when AOPA learned that the Gaston County Police Department in North Carolina had bought a "CyberBUG" UAV from Cyber Defense Systems."

    Every fucking time I turn around another police outfit from Bumblefuck, U.S.A. has bought itself a shiny new toy with my "homeland security" tax dollars. (Add your least favorite story about the new SWAT team in a county with three homocides a year, an armored car for a town of 50K people, etc.) And because there usually aren't any terrorists anywhere near them, these knuckledraggers end up figuring out a way to chase the usual crowd of inbred drunks around town with it.

    • by Voltageaav (798022) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @11:46PM (#15023402) Homepage
      Not all UAV's are all that expensive really. The Raven UAV used by the US military costs about $35,000. Less than the average squad car and probably much more useful. This is probably the closest thing to what they are talking about using in current use by the US government. It's been used with great success in the field http://www.1id.army.mil/1ID/News/September/Article _06/Article_06.htm [army.mil] . Also, as they are used more widely and production increases, costs to produce them will drop.
      • "Not all UAV's are all that expensive really. The Raven UAV used by the US military costs about $35,000."

        Of course, you're omitting training, storage and repair costs and the time lost putting a cop in front of a TV screen instead of out on the streets.

  • 2084 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by headkase (533448) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @11:01PM (#15023149)
    I wish Orwell's 1984 was required to be taught and discussed to death in citizenship classes in high school. What most people don't seem to understand is that 1984 is not really about "big brother" but instead it foretells what Orwell deeply distrusted: a global information system and the abuse of it. In a way Orwell was a pessimist - he knew that no matter how well intentioned any system would be abused. UAV's are a symptom of Orwell's fears, they are just more information inputs into a global database. By themselves it's almost silly to complain about them but in aggregate with other databases the whole becomes dangerous to liberty. Everyone has broken some law somewhere and if that information is easily looked up it makes everyone susceptible to blackmail - who did you have an affair with last year? There was an old soviet joke about having laws against everything so if the KGB wanted you they would simply selectively enforce any law they wanted to against you. What citizens should demand to combat Orwell's dystopia is transparency in the process' and records of their government. Yes some things do need to be classified but they are usually the exception and not the rule. And no matter how classified everything should eventually become known.

    Anyway, I'm too drunk to continue so please correct and extend what I've said. Goodnight. ;) :)
  • You must. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Raven42rac (448205) * on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @11:12PM (#15023202)
    You must give up freedom to protect freedom. That is, unless you hate freedom. How did this happen to my country in 6 years? How the fuck.
  • Time to move... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cheerio Boy (82178) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @11:13PM (#15023210) Homepage Journal
    We've got little time left before the borders completely close.

    There are only two choice at this point in my opinion:

    1) Openly take back the government by hook or by crook. This is costly in life, money, and security but has been shown by other people of the world to work.

    or

    2) Leave the country until it collapses or someone cleans it up. Depending on how you look at it this could be construed as an abandonment of one's responsibilities as a US citizen but those of you with family and small children, like me, should seriously think about what kind of country they are going to grow up in. If they can't defend themselves then you have to move them elsewhere.

    This is one of those times I wish I hadn't been right to wear my tinfoil. I wish I could see a path to be able to remove it. But I don't see that in my lifetime especially if these things get worse as I suspect they will.

    In my opinion this is one step before the wall.

    (Why isn't this article in the YRO section?)

    I await the inevitable mod down by those that think I'm OT, Troll, Overrated, or Flamebait...
  • by mnmn (145599) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @11:26PM (#15023285) Homepage
    Most of the airspace below 12500 feet in north america is class X (dont remember X), where you can fly around anywhere without a previously declared plan. You need a mode C transponder, but youre free to fly VFR. Thats reflective of the freedom provided to you. Certain regions, cities, airports etc are more restricted, but the default piece of ground is this VFR class.

    Looks like this class might be eliminated completely to allow drones to fly around anywhere. Which means a general aviation airplane will have to always file a flightplan and possibly remain on IFR, except on airport approaches, where they can request a VFR type approach. Flying will never be the same.

    Its easy to sell this to the general public. "We dont want to let anyone fly just anywhere" and "we could use the extra security" and "War against terrorism" whatever that means. But somewhere in the future Americans will realize what they lost.
    • by mercuryresearch (680293) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @12:15AM (#15023553) Journal
      Your interpretation is incorrect. Most airspace is class E -- which is controlled airspace -- but airspace designations are primarily about visibility minimums and communications requirements, and have little bearing on flight plan or instrument flight status. Classes D, C, and B are all associated with areas in and around airports, with increasing requirements for communications (D,C, and B all require communications with the airport tower, C requires transponder, and B requires transponder and permission to enter the airspace.) So today, even the most restricted airspace (B) you can fly over without a flight plan.

      So unless most airspace is declared class B, it's not really an issue. I really don't think the FAA / ATC want to deal with the millions of clearance requests, etc they'd encounter if they did something so drastic.

      What's more likely is that they'll swiss-cheese the airspace with temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) around areas where the drones operate. Presumably they could become so numerous as to make private flight planning a bit difficult. Before then, however, there will probably be enough crashes with drones to result in them be forced into small saftey zones. If the Predator is any indication, there will be many, many crashes as UAVs get used more extensively -- which would totally undermine any safety-selling approach that might be tried.
      • by Witchblade (9771) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @01:53AM (#15024065) Homepage
        So unless most airspace is declared class B, it's not really an issue. I really don't think the FAA / ATC want to deal with the millions of clearance requests, etc they'd encounter if they did something so drastic.

        Ah, but if you've been paying attention the past few years, the FAA and the major airlines seem hellbent on removing general aviation from the US altogether (closing non-airline airports, insisting on implementing per request fees for ATC, trying to ground all aircraft built before the last few decades. And don't get me started on the stupidity of every major city wanting a Washington D.C. style Air Defense Identificaton Zone). I suspect having nothing flying anywhere near the ground except governemnt controled drones would suit them just fine.

        What's more likely is that they'll swiss-cheese the airspace with temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) around areas where the drones operate. Presumably they could become so numerous as to make private flight planning a bit difficult.

        Or they'll just make private flying illegal.

    • by zamboni1138 (308944) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @12:28AM (#15023643)
      Classes of US Civil Airspace:

      A: 18,000+ feet, IFR flight plan required
      B: Major airport (LAX, SEA, ORD, etc.), 10,000 MSL and below
      C: Medium airport, usually only to 4,000 AGL
      D: Small airport with tower, usually only to 2,500 AGL
      E: Everywhere else above 1,200 AGL
      G: Everywhere else below 1,200 AGL

      You are thinking of Class E and G airspace.

      Just remember in Class G to stay *at least* 500 feet from my barn.

      MSL = Mean Sea Level
      AGL = Above Ground Level
    • 12,500? The only place I can think of in the FARs about 12,500' is for oxygen use in unpressurised planes. Possibly you're thinking of 18,000' -- everything above is Class A, i.e. IFR only.

      IFR -- Instrument Flight Rules; there are no visibility and ceiling requirements when you're IFR since you're required to be in contact with ATC and controlled by them. VFR is Visual Flight Rules, i.e. you're flying by looking outside, so obviously there are various visibility and ceiling requirements. Airspace is not d

  • by pcraven (191172) <paul&cravenfamily,com> on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @11:34PM (#15023341) Homepage
    Of course, since UAV communications are though an open standard, you could always try to hook in yourself. Then you can see what 'big brother' is looking at.

    This is the TCS specification. [fas.org] Used in the U.S.

    This is the NATO standard, a bit newer. [navy.mil]

    Of course, people should use VPN or similar, but it isn't required.
  • by stovetop (832662) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @11:54PM (#15023448)
    Full disclosure up front -- I am an AOPA member.

    The issue with UAVs from a pilot's point of view (OK, THIS pilots pov) is mostly one of safety. One of the AOPA articles referenced noted the creation of a TFR, which is a flight-restricted zone of the national airspace. (TFR stands for 'Temporary Flight Restriction')

    If a TFR is created, it is the responsibility of the pilot to determine its existence before venturing into that airspace. This is burdensome, but is not difficult. Literally hundreds of resources are available online and via the phone to help pilots plan flights.

    For me it isn't a big deal to fire up the computer and check to see if anything is going on that might make for an overly adventursome day in the sky. (I live 100 miles from DC so it is also a way of life for pilots here.) Older pilots, however, have great difficulty adjusting to these TFRs.

    Most non-pilots have absolutely no idea how unregulated the vast majority of our airspace is. For example, there is no requirement whatsoever for a personal flight conducted in good weather (VFR) to communicate with air traffic control unless the aircraft ventures into the airspace near a busy airport or flies above 17999 feet. Hell, you are not even required to HAVE a radio or transponder to fly into most of our airports. If you have such equipment (and most planes do) you still don't have to use it unless the specifics of the situation demand it. (Another disclaimer - I do not believe that minimum adherence to the rules results in the safest possible flying conditions. In other words, if you've got a freakin' radio, use it.)

    The idea that some podunk police department in NC (not far from where I live!) could have one of these things cruising around at 1000 ft or more is absolutely frightening. Even if I make the required inquiries about how to safely conduct my flight, a non-FAA-regulated aircraft could ruin my day in a hurry, and the podunk police department in question would almost certainly bear no legal liability for my demise since they were operating their UAV in compliance with established law. To their credit, the podunk police department agreed to operate their drones according to the requirements for model aircraft (below 400 ft). This is below the minimum altitude for safe, legal operations unless going that low for reasons necessary for the safe conduct of the flight, i.e. taking off or landing.

    On the larger, more philosophical question of whether unmanned spy vehicles should be welcome over our homes, I tend to think the answer is NO. On whether information about all such activities should be made as readily available to pilots as the weather forecast, the answer is undoubtedly yes. And that means national coordination, and that means the FAA.
  • by constantnormal (512494) on Wednesday March 29, 2006 @11:57PM (#15023462)
    Somewhere between 99.999% and 99.99999999% of the terrorists (call it an educated guess, based on the number of suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks that have occurred in this country since 9-11) are outside this country -- probably in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Iran -- and we're spending serious effort on domestic surveillance?

    What this says to me is that the Bush administration is fscking terrified that the tall grass is full of terrorists, and that we have zero resources capable of dealing with them in their own space (the CIA having been preoccupied with telling the boss what he wants to hear), and have so pissed off our former friends who might actually have some field intelligence, but would now prefer to see us twist in the wind, making an excellent target to draw out the terrorists.

    Actually, that last bit doesn't hold water, 'cause plenty of European nations have been hit since 9-11. If anyone had any field intelligence, it would be used.

    But why aren't we deploying surveillance drones over Saudi Arabia, or at least Pakistan? And we certainly ought to have every pile of rubble with a roof over it in Afghanistan bugged.

    But this continued insistence on domestic surveillance looks for all the world as if the Bush administration is on the side of the terrorists, or is at least gearing up to declare martial law and replace our broken, wobbly charicature of a representative democracy with a theocratic monarchy.

    Either that, or they're just incredibly, unbelievably inept.
  • by Eil (82413) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @01:50AM (#15024048) Homepage Journal
    I agree with the sentiment that this whole plan infringes most grievously upon our freedoms, however, this comment is a more than a little asine:

    But what happens when lots of relatively dumb drones have to share airspace with aircraft carrying passengers?

    UAVs are unmanned in the sense that there is no pilot aboard the aircraft itself. NOT in the sense that they're flying around up there on autopilot, oblivious to other air traffic. A UAV is operated by a trained pilot on the ground. I don't know about these civilian jobbies, but the military ones have radar and IFF transponders so that the pilots can see other aircraft in the area and, just as importantly, other aircraft can see the UAV.

    Summary of differences between normal aircraft and UAV:
    - UAVs cost far less (no need for a cockpit)
    - Pilot avoids hazards normally associated with flying, most of them involving gravity
  • by tacocat (527354) <tallison1 AT twmi DOT rr DOT com> on Thursday March 30, 2006 @06:48AM (#15025016)

    I know they had something like this in Orwelles 1984, I guess it just took us a little longer.

    At this point, Bush should probably just go for broke and insert RFIDs into everyone scalp. I don't think he's gong to stop until this is implimented. So go for it. Hopefully we'll have sufficient liberal backlash to bring the country back into line with reality. At this rate we'll surpass most police states in a decade. I'm not exactly a liberal or a conservative, but this stuff is getting out of hand.

  • by MikTheUser (761482) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @08:24AM (#15025261)
    I'm quite impressed with this Slashdot article, not because of TFA, nor because of its content.

    But I am surprised how many of you realize the problems that your society is having (Yes, I am adressing US citizens). We, in Europe, often speak about those issues of freedom being taken away in the name of a so-called War on Terror, and we see the same roots of the problem, being the media providing bread-and-games distraction, partial/idealistic education and other things.
    But, I have come to realize, we unfairly generalize the US citizens, as if all of you didn't realize what's going on. But then, I see stuff like Sorry Everybody [sorryeverybody.com], and I am reminded that lots of you don't like the system either. And most of the comments on this article (which have been modded up) express an understanding of what is going wrong.

    People - you have to do something!. I am not in the position to be lecturing you (since I am but a 19-year-old German student), but I wonder how come that so many of you see the problems, and yet Nothing Ever Happens. I wonder if it is because there's no way for the "extraparliamentary opposition" (read up on the German one [wikipedia.org]) to express itself, or because there simply is no movement which unites people who feel like you do, and like I do, too. What I see is a great potential for protest, but only in places like Slashdot does it become aparent.

    There really is no important bottom line to this. It's what I perceive and what I wonder about.
    • All aboard...? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cr0sh (43134)
      Do you want to know what we are? We are the gear oil in the differential. We are perceived as the nasty stuff that has to be in there in order for it all to work. The greater American society knows this, and they despise us for it. They know, at some visceral level, that intelligence, reason, and logic is needed for the society to run, but it needs to be marginalized from the greater society lest it take over. We are the geeks. Here in America, we probably account for 1/10 or less of 1 percent of the entire

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