Is there a drone in your neighbourhood? Rise of spy planes exposed after FAA is forced to reveal 63 launch sites across U.S.

Exposed: Location of sites where licences have been granted for the use of drones within the U.S. There are 63 active sites based in 20 states. Red flags show active sites and blue show those locations where licences have expired since 2006

Unmanned spy planes are being launched from locations in 20 states and owners include the military and universities

Daily Mail | Apr 24, 2012

By Julian Gavaghan

There are at least 63 active drone sites around the U.S, federal authorities have been forced to reveal following a landmark Freedom of Information lawsuit.

The unmanned planes – some of which may have been designed to kill terror suspects – are being launched from locations in 20 states.

Most of the active drones are deployed from military installations, enforcement agencies and border patrol teams, according to the Federal Aviation Authority.

But, astonishingly, 19 universities and colleges are also registered as owners of what are officially known as unmanned aerial vehicles.

It is thought that many of institutions, which include Cornell, the University of Colorado, Georgia Tech, and Eastern Gateway Community College, are developing drone technology.

There are also 21 mainstream manufactures, such as General Atomics, who are registered to use drones domestically.

As well as active locations, the FAA also revealed 16 sites where licences to use spy planes have expired and four where authorisations have been disapproved, such as Otter Tail County, Minnesota.

The authority revealed the information after a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Its website hosts an interactive map that allows the user to zoom in to the area around where they live to see if any sites are nearby.

However, the FAA is yet to reveal what kinds of drones might be based at any of these locations.

The agency says it will release this data later.

Most of the drones are likely to be small craft, such as the Draganflyer X8, which can carry a payload of only 2.2lb.

Police, border patrols and environmental agencies, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), could use for them effectively.

While few would object to vast open areas being monitored for wildfires, there are fears of privacy violations if drones are used to spy over cities.

Other drones – likely to be operated only by the armed forces – might include the MQ-9 Reaper and the MQ-1 Predator, which was used to kill American Al Qaeda boss Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen last September.

The FAA released two lists of public and private entities that have applied for authorisations to fly drones domestically.

Certificates of Authorizations (COAs), issued to public entities like police departments, are active in 42 locations, expired in 16 and disapproved in four.

Special Airworthiness Certificates (SACs), issued to private drone manufacturers, are active in 21 locations and not active in 17.

Among the other unanswered questions, however, are is exactly how many drones each registered user owns.

Watching you: Most of the drones are likely to be small craft, such as the Draganflyer X8, which can carry a payload of only 2.2lb. Police, border patrols and environmental agencies, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), could use for them effectively

The FAA has confirmed that there were about 300 active COAs and that the agency has issued about 700-750 authorizations since the program began in 2006.

But this information does not reveal how many are owned, for example, by Miami Dade Police Department.

While the use of drones in the U.S. is little known, American operations overseas have been well documented.

As well as high-profile terrorists, campaigners claim hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in the border regions of Pakistan, where they are most active.


U.S. Air Force

U.S. Army

U.S. Navy

USMC (United States Marine Corps)

DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency)

Department of Agriculture

DHS (Department of Homeland Security) / CBP (Customs and Border Protection)

DHS (Department of Homeland Security) / Science and Technology

DOE (Department of Energy) – Idaho National Laboratory

Department of the Interior

FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation)

NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)

Washington State Department of Transportation

Mississippi Department of Marine Resources

City of Herington, Kansas

City of North Little Rock, AR Police Department

Arlington Police Department

Miami-Dade Police Department

Ogden Police Department

Seattle Police Dept

Orange County Sheriff’s Office

Polk County Sheriff’s Office

Mesa County Sheriff’s Office

Texas A&M University

Ohio University

Eastern Gateway Community College

University of Alaska Fairbanks

New Mexico Tech

Texas State University

Mississippi State University

University of Colorado

University of Connecticut

Gadsden Police Department

Georgia Tech Research Institute

University of Florida

New Mexico State University

Kansas State University

University of North Dakota

Utah State University

Middle Tennessee State University

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


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