I don’t know what’s more threatening to liberty and privacy – the National Security Agency’s monstrous eavesdropping efforts and satellite surveillance on American citizens or the plans for massive expansion by local, state and federal governments of spying on us from the air with drones.

Steve Peacock reports in WND the federal government is gearing up to ensure drones will soon be everywhere across the country in a plan to enforce regulations on the citizenry.

The latest discovery is that the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries recently acquired Puma UAS – a type of drone the U.S. Navy also uses – for operations off the coast of Los Angeles.

“ONMS now is enlisting contractor support in expanding UAS use in California, Hawaii, Florida, and Washington state,” reports Peacock. “Vendors experienced in working with law enforcement and military personnel are needed for this endeavor, according to a solicitation that WND located through routine database research.”

This is just one more expansion of drone surveillance. The U.S. Army is also evaluating contractor proposals to train operators of drones, specifically for Puma and Raven vehicles. As WND reported in late June, the Army says vendors will help it maintain nearly 1,800 Puma and Raven systems “currently fielded, and alternative medium and long range systems procured in the future.”

The key to good surveillance is stealth, and Puma UAS are quiet enough “to avoid detection and operate autonomously, providing persistent intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting data,” according to their manufacturer, the Monrovia, California-based AeroVironment Inc., or AV.

Now, if use of drones were being used to make the Border Patrol’s job easier, Americans might not be so suspect. But that does not appear to be the case. Drones are being used to keep tabs on the activities of citizens, not non-citizens.

And what’s equally alarming is that drones were pioneered by the military and are now being employed to watch over civilians.

Here are some other recent drone developments chronicled by WND:

  • A $100 million drone hangar at Ft. Riley, Kan., is being planned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The solicitation said the Army Corps project will focus on the construction of “a maintenance hangar for three Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) companies.”

  • The Army Corps also plans to build a $25 million, 30,000-square-yard airfield at Fort Hood, Texas, for UAS deployment. The construction of a drone hangar facility separately is slated for that location.
  • The U.S. Air Force awarded a $26 million contract to General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., which will conduct research and development for the agency’s Aircraft Structural Integrity Program. The project, which the company will carry out at its Poway, Calif., facility, seeks to make improvements to the MQ-9 Reaper System, which the Air Force describes as a “larger and more heavily armed than the Predator UAV.”
  • The creation of air- and underwater-based UAV-launch technologies is being explored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which on Aug. 5 will meet with industry representatives to discuss what is known as the “Hydra” R&D project. DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office will hold the Proposers’ Day event at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md.
  • Technological advances in the collection and analysis of surveillance data and images – particularly that which can be used aboard drones – are being sought by the Rome, N.Y.-based Air Force Research Lab, which seeks to fund contractor-led R&D projects in its Multi-Intelligence Exploitation and Correlation initiative. “Given current levels of activity, operational requirements, hostile environments, and resources being heavily tasked, collection systems will need to be developed for embedding on advanced collection platforms, such as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs),” the AFRL recently reported.

The government’s got some new eyes in the sky – and many more are coming.

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