Claims that UAVs being used to spy on citizens being tinfoil hat paranoia may soon be going the way of the Dodo as a new spy craft will soon be taking to the air to survey hostage situations, unearth evidence of crime scenes and possibly even spy on private citizens. This will be one of the first official UAV test vehicles designed to be used by the police, and though its use would normally be big news, it has mostly flown under the radar in light of other news stories breaking across the airwaves.
The Miami Police Department calls it the T Hawk (short for Tarantula Hawk) cost the police department only $1 to purchase. Originally designed by the defense contractor Honeywell under a $7.5 million contract with the US Navy, the vehicle uses nothing more than ordinary gasoline and has been deployed previously in Iraq to discover roadside bombs and other improvised explosive devices. The T Hawk has been praised for its ability to move down close and take surveillance pictures and video of targets from close range while hovering in front of them. The vehicles also move far quicker than traditional ground vehicles.
Imagine flashing spotlights and a megaphone on the device and you may be looking at the future of law enforcement. And while the device does have its list of fans, it also seems the Tarantula Hawk will be causing privacy advocates quite a bit of concern as its limitations do seem virtually boundless. In the wrong hand after all, such a device would be able to peek in windows, take pictures, and even allow law enforcement officials to remotely stop citizens and submit to being photographed or otherwise scanned by the object with or without their consent.
Of course this isn’t to suggest the device was designed to be abused or that those expressing interest in it currently have any intention to violate the privacy of citizens in Miami. In fact, the device has not even been used yet pending approval by the FAA for the experimental craft.
The drones are still in the experimental phase, but with such a powerful device being created, expect to see it take a center stage in the ongoing debate between privacy advocates and those who wish privacy to fall into the background with safety being the primary policy maker.
In addition to being quieter and more subtle than helicopters, the T Hawk originally designed to protect soldiers will be less costly to fly and would be remotely operated while still being able to perform most of the duties helicopters do. And at least a few that helicopters are not, like hovering low on street corners to monitor passers-by.
Below is video of a spy drone being used in the UK to spot and curb antisocial behavior.