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Your Police State At Work: Spy Drones Entering Local Cop Arsenals, Including Florida’s

| December 26, 2011

Honeywell, manufacturer of the RQ-16A T-Hawk spy drone, likes to say that the device fits in a backpack. (DOD)

Forget Iran and Afghanistan. Americans have unmanned drones flying over their own heads, and more are coming.

With financial help from the federal government, police departments across the country are marshaling a new generation of remote-controlled airborne surveillance devices to be their eyes in the sky.

In North Dakota, a local sheriff called in a Predator drone from Grand Forks Air Force Base to help corral a family of cattle rustlers.

Closer to home, the Miami-Dade Police Department has acquired two Honeywell T-Hawk drones of its own with help from a federal grant.

The T-Hawk can fly to an altitude of 9,000 feet, hover in midair and find its targets via powerful camera lenses and heat imaging. Best of all, it is relatively inexpensive. MDPD’s total equipment cost was just $50,000, officials said.

“The Miami-Dade Police Department has been granted permission by the FAA to utilize the T-Hawk Drone in actual emergency response scenes,” said Sgt. Andrew Cohen, who pilots the drones from a laptop computer.

Cohen maintains that MDPD’s use of “micro air vehicles” is restricted.

“They’re strictly regulated and the FAA is notified and approve each time the T-hawk is utilized. The use is limited to 300 feet above the ground,” he said.

Still, that’s an expansion from last February, when the department was only allowed to fly drones over the Everglades.

“The drones have not been utilized in any actual scenes as of today,” Cohen said last week. He noted that areas of use are based on avoiding “any conflict with high-rise buildings or obstacles and other air traffic.”

“While we hope it will never be needed, we stand ready to deploy this new technology if called upon. We look forward to being able to provide useful information to the units on the scene while keeping the officers and citizens of Miami-Dade County safer,” Cohen said.

Showcasing its law-enforcement capability, a Predator on loan from the Air Force helped a North Dakota sheriff’s department apprehend a family of cattle thieves last June.

With the drone, “We don’t have to go in guns blazing. We can take our time and methodically plan out what our approach should be,” Nelson County Sheriff Kelly Janke told the Los Angeles Times.

On a cost-benefit basis, a $154 million Air Force-grade Predator drone seems a bit extravagant when used to retrieve cattle valued at just $6,000. But the economics pencil out with less pricey craft like the T-Hawk.

MDPD, using a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, purchased one $50,000 T-Hawk and leased another from Honeywell for $1 a year.

There are limitations, however. The T-Hawk’s motor sounds like a lawnmower and its gas tank limits the craft to 40 minutes of flying time. The 18-pound unit cannot operate in winds above 20 knots.

Still, unmanned drones are an attractive alternative to much pricier police helicopters.

Acknowledging growing interest by local law enforcement, the FAA said in a statement that it is “working with urban police departments in major metropolitan areas and national public safety organizations on test programs involving unmanned aircraft.”


“The goal is to help identify the challenges that UAS (umanned aircraft systems) will bring into this environment and what type of operations law enforcement can safely perform.”

Others aren’t so high on drone deployment.

“It probably won’t be long before they start equipping them with X-ray scanners and ‘non-lethal’ weapons systems,” said Adrian Wylie, chairman of the Libertarian Party of Florida.

“Of course, all of it will be funded by federal grants so those pesky state legislators don’t intervene to prevent their widespread use.”

Andrew Nappi, of the Florida Tenth Amendment Center, sees the aerial operations as part of an ongoing erosion of civil rights.

“The federalization of local police forces has accelerated since 9/11. The Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and state fusion centers have yielded profiles that can arbitrarily label any of us domestic terrorists based on nothing more than our commitment to the Bill of Rights and liberty,” Nappi said.

The American Civil Liberties Union says it opposes use of drones unless there is certainty they will collect evidence of a specific crime.

“Historically, the fact that manned helicopters and airplanes are expensive has imposed a natural limit on aerial surveillance. But the prospect of cheap, flying video surveillance cameras will likely open the floodgates,” said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with the ACLU.

–Kendric Ward, Sunshine State News

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32 Responses for “Your Police State At Work: Spy Drones Entering Local Cop Arsenals, Including Florida’s”

  1. Jojo says:

    Very Orwellian indeed.

  2. rickg says:

    I guess it was a matter of time before devices like this would be used. They will say its to fight crime but its more like Big Brother. JoJo you are spot on with the Orwellian comment. The Fourth amendment has been wittled at for many years but this could be the end. I wonder what would happen if the second amendment were to be attacked so vociferously?

    • Anonymous says:

      Defend defend defend, who expect those to respect the restrictions placed against them?????? Freedom is not Free

  3. Outsider says:

    Maybe it’s just part of the plan:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwaAVJITx1Y

  4. NortonSmitty says:

    Too late to pay attention now.

  5. dontbesoparanoid says:

    Paranoia the destroyer….This is no different than a helicopter being called out to search for suspects or missing persons. And it appears to be at a much less expense to tax payers.

  6. dontbesoparanoid says:

    ““It probably won’t be long before they start equipping them with X-ray scanners and ‘non-lethal’ weapons systems,” said Adrian Wylie, chairman of the Libertarian Party of Florida.”

    LOL!!!When they can’t find a valid argument…they’ll make one up.

  7. Thomas says:

    They will stop using them when the American people have reach their limit with “nazi” police tactics and start shooting them out of the sky.

    • NortonSmitty says:

      Before that drone hits the ground you will be declared a terrorist. And by the new National Defense Authorization Act passed 97-7 last week in the Senate, you can be imprisoned without charges indefinitely without access to a lawyer, without the government even having to tell your family they have you. By the military, not civil courts. Without Habeus Corpus, which has been the bedrock of all laws since the Magna Carta in 1066 AD. Without any of the Bill of Rights.

      But all of the “Withouts” mentioned above, the biggest is the fact it was passed last week Without a wimper, Without us paying attention, Without one minute of the bullshit we are fed every day that we call “News” pointing it out to us. Without anybody even giving a shit if they were told.

      The old chestnut that “People pretty much get the Government they deserve” comes to my mind. Too bad there isn’t more of us that ever heard of it. I believe this is the final nail, now it’s too late to pay attention. We’re fucked.

  8. Anonymous says:

    The Fourth amendment has been wittled at for many years but this could be the end. I wonder what would happen if the second amendment were to be ?

    The IV Amendment would not apply in public places. If only the II Amendment was “attacked so vociferously” as this ones rights to keep and bear would be secure

  9. kenpc says:

    I wonder how well they secure these things. They would be ideal for terrorists who could use them for bacterial warfare, etc.

  10. palmcoaster says:

    Maybe these drones would be able to spot these pythons invading our neighborhoods thanks to the responsibility and the total deregulation for exotic pet businesses and traders in Florida.
    http://www.azcentral.com/offbeat/articles/2011/12/26/20111226florida-python-in-pool.html
    How come these news goes unreported in Florida?

  11. Ed says:

    You know that someone will end up dying when one crashes. I suppose that at least 50% of the population will say that it’s worth it.

  12. w.ryan says:

    @ dontbesoparanoid – These drones won’t fly themselves.There is more expense.

  13. Anonymous says:

    How come these news goes unreported in Florida?

    It was reported thats how you got the “news” of it!!! As it happend in south FLA WTVJ out of Miami ran the story. I als saw it on TV news this morning news 13 i think

  14. Doug Chozianin says:

    It needs missiles. (Available accessory in 2013 after the election???)

  15. dontbesoparanoid says:

    w.ryan, Neither do helicopters…pilot/co-pilot +fuel.

  16. Liana G says:

    Are these drones also equipped with a kill button to press in the event that law enforcement determines an environment too hostile to enter?

    Do we then blame it on terrorists in order to escalate more wars and instill greater fears our warmongering policies are cultivating?

    Well, it does reap profits for the 1%. The thing is though, does America become the Palestine of the west. There are huge profits being made in the incessant destruction and rebuilding of Palestine infrastructure (never mind the people – collateral damage and population control). The Europeans rebuilds while the US and Israel destroys… and the cycle repeats

  17. howard huge says:

    “just because i’m paranoid doesn’t mean everyone’s not out to get me.” it’s somewhat surprising Walmart doesn’t stock tin foil hats now a days.

  18. palmcoaster says:

    I saw the python incident on the AZ news on 12/26…an nothing about it in our state of Florida ….looks like you saw it on the 27…When I saw it on the 26th was still nowhere reported here.

  19. NortonSmitty says:

    Dontbepayinattention, as the police state noose tightens around our necks like the pythons we are supposed to be worrying about today, we will look back at these incremental steps in governmental control of awakening citizens and it won’t be so easy to laugh off. But it will be too late.

  20. Outsider says:

    Liana G, you seem to have left out the part where the Palestinians rain missiles on Israel. That’s the catalyst that brings about the destruction of the Palestinian infrastructure.

  21. palmcoaster says:

    @Outsider and we sure shouldn’t be involved helping either of them…as we need to get involved helping our own right here. On his view I am with Ron Paul; no foreign aid no foreign wars! If those two or anyone else pick up fights…let them resolve those themselves…We have enough to care for right here at home. We owe enough trillions as it is now and we can’t afford to waste any more

  22. Anonymous says:

    @ palmcoaster I dont get the fus over a snake in south FLA???? It happend on Christmas day

  23. Liana G says:

    …”the Palestinians rain missiles on Israel. That’s the catalyst that brings about the destruction of the Palestinian infrastructure.”

    Outsider, for the sake of your comment, I’ll go along with “the Palestinians rain missiles on Israel” bringing about the destruction of the Palestinian infrastructure.

    America is raining missiles in Iraq, Afganstian, Pakistan, Africa. US made weapons and missiles are also being used /still being used in the Middle East uprising and in Palestine too (as recent as several days ago). Iran is now in possession of a US drone that went down on their soil (details are still sketchy). So let’s pray that none of these mounting catalysts will turn America into the Palestine of the West, or Iraq of the West, or Afganistian of the West, or … heck pick any of these country. A very dangerous game with dire consequences. Europe is not financially strong to help us and, at this time, is more concerned about ensuring China’s real estate bubble doesn’t burst too. And the Saudi’s? They are the ones aiding Al Queda so they are not likely to help, they haven’t so far.

    Palmcoaster, we do need a Ron Paul / Bernie Sanders ticket. The liberal media is viciously attacking him so he must be a serious threat. Used to be Romney but that has changed. I’ll have to switch my registration from independent to republician so I can vote for him in the FL primary, and before Jan 3rd too, I think. This is all new to me.

    • Don says:

      FLAGLER county S.O. Could use it to do air strikes on Mondex

      • NortonSmitty says:

        Makes about as much sense as using a $500,000 Hellfire missile on a $10 Million dollar Predator Flying Killer Robot to blow up a mud hut in Waziristan.

        Oh, yea. I forgot. That Shepard hated us ’cause of our freedoms.

  24. palmcpaster says:

    Needless to mention the 7,000 drones @ 8 million average price each with 180 personnel each on the ground to support, maintain and manage. Plus the 30 million each Sirkowsky S-70 Seawhak copters, at a cost of half a million each to just pack and ship to Asia to be used by our troops…
    http://www.aircraftcompare.com/helicopter-airplane/Sikorsky-S-70B-Seahawk/240

    Meanwhile here we have over 30 million unemployed…1/4 of our total population poor and 40 million that can’t afford health care…
    Our immediate past Commander and Chief started all these wars profiteering and the current one keeps supplying them against his un complied Promise of Change to stop them” That tell us very clearly who really govern us all to our fate. They don’t get it that we can’t afford these wars and the foreign aid any longer! WE NEED TO AID OUR OWN NOW!!

  25. palmcoaster says:

    My error is… Sikorsky.

  26. palmcoaster says:

    Needless to mention the 7,000 drones @ 8 million average price each with 180 personnel each on the ground to support, maintain and manage. Plus the 30 million each Sikorsky S-70 Seawhak copters, at a cost of half a million each to just pack and ship to Asia to be used by our troops…
    http://www.aircraftcompare.com/helicopter-airplane/Sikorsky-S-70B-Seahawk/240
    Meanwhile here we have over 30 million unemployed…1/4 of our total population poor and 40 million that can’t afford health care…
    Our immediate past Commander and Chief started all these wars profiteering and the current one keeps supplying them against his un complied Promise of Change to stop them” That tell us very clearly who really govern us all to our fate. They don’t get it that we can’t afford these wars and the foreign aid any longer! WE NEED TO AID OUR OWN NOW!!

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