Big Sis Testing Drones That Can Detect Guns
The Department of Homeland Security is testing a number of different drones at a scientific research facility in Oklahoma that have sensors capable of detecting whether a person is armed, stoking concerns that the federal agency is planning on using UAVs to harass gun owners.
Researchers with Oklahoma State University are masterminding the drones for the DHS at a nondescript building that houses the Oklahoma Training Center for Unmanned Systems.
Field testing of the drones is being carried out at Ft. Sill Army Post near Lawton, Oklahoma, allowing the UAVs to avoid prying eyes due to the camp's 200 square miles of restricted airspace.
Toney Stricklin, a member of the Governor's Unmanned Aircraft Systems Council, said the primary purpose of the drones was "to catch the bad guys."
Attorney David Slane told KWTV-9 that the drones represented a threat to "privacy rights."
A HSToday.us report details how, "SUAS sensor platforms are being tested for use by "first responder and homeland security operational communities" that “can distinguish between unarmed and armed (exposed) personnel," as well as conducting detection, surveillance, tracking and laser designation of targets of interest at stand-off ranges, according to the RAPS (Robotic Aircraft for Public Safety) Test Plan obtained by Homeland Security Today."
The drones are also fitted with cameras that can record "scene data" in high definition (HD) quality and consist of "fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft having gross takeoff weights of 25 lbs. or less." A "Privacy Impact Assessment" conducted by a DHS official concluded that the drones posed no privacy issues - which is kind of like a fox concluding that a henhouse poses no safety issues.
A RAPS program official who declined to provide his identity assured critics that the sensor capabilities on the drones would not be used for "nefarious" purposes.
However, given that the DHS has purchased in excess of 1.6 billion bullets, which many see as an attempt to put a stranglehold on the ammunition market as an end run around the Second Amendment, such statements ring hollow.
The RAPS plan also notes how the cost of the drones being tested is continually plummeting, opening the door for some "50,000 police and fire departments" in the country to set up their own "aviation departments."
Testing of the drones is also set to expand to two further locations, the Oklahoma National Guard’s Camp Gruber and the University Multispectral Laboratory’s test site at Chilocco, Okla.
"Public and congressional concerns
over the expanding use of UAVs of all kinds by federal, state and local
law enforcement were exacerbated recently following a report by CNET.com
that DHS has “customized its Predator drones” to be able
to “identify civilians carrying guns and tracking their cell phones,”
writes Anthony Kimery.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center's Ginger McCall said the testing was, “clearly evidence that the Department of Homeland Security is developing drones with signals interception technology and the capability to identify people on the ground."
After initially covering the DHS' plan for "public safety drones" in October 2012, we first reported on DHS-funded drones being used in the context of the federal government's gun control agenda in February of this year. A promotional video for the Shadowhawk drone, a 50lb mini helicopter that can be fitted with an XREP taser with the ability to fire four barbed electrodes that can be shot to a distance of 100 feet, depicted the UAV being used to spy on a private gun sale.
The fictional scenario falsely characterized the private sale of firearms as an illegal activity, with the drone being used to gather information on the individuals involved in the transaction.
After being used against Somali pirates and insurgents in Afghanistan, the Department of Homeland Security approved the Shadowhawk drone for use on domestic soil in 2011, prompting the Sheriff’s Office of Montgomery County, Texas to purchase one for a cool $500,000 dollars, aided by a $250,000 DHS grant.
View a video of the Shadowhawk drone being tested in a scenario which depicts the UAV being used to keep tabs on a gun sale in the video below.