Well, drones are officially a problem.
About a month ago a fight broke out in an Ohio prison because a drone that may or may not have been operated by Santa dropped off 144.5 grams of tobacco, 65.4 grams of marijuana, and 6.6 grams of heroin.
And just last week authorities snatched up two men on a side road next to a jail in Maryland before they had a chance to make a special delivery with their drone – synthetic marijuana, tobacco, suboxone, a handgun, and, of course, porn DVDs.
According to a report from The Washington Post, FAA statistics show that there have been 700 drone “incidents” reported by pilots since the beginning of the year, with 70 since August 1st alone, and some of them “penetrating some of the most guarded airspace in the country.”
So you’d think we have enough to worry about. But you’d be wrong.
In North Dakota, it is now legal for law enforcement officials to grab a Frappuccino and a remote control and take a flying taser for a spin; as long as the weapons are considered “less than lethal,” they can stick them on a drone and send it up.
That includes the following nifty little gadgets: pepper spray, sound cannons, tasers and rubber bullets.
In other words, there’s no way anything could go wrong.
This all started with House Bill 1328, which had the stated intent of requiring police to obtain a search warrant before using a drone to snoop for criminal evidence. And, according to Rick Becker, the author of the original bill, it would have prohibited all weapons from police drones if passed in its intended form.
But then the Grand Forks County Sheriff had an objection to the bill. And so did someone from the North Dakota Department of Commerce, and so did someone from an economic development group, and so did the Director of the University of North Dakota’s drone major program (yup, that’s a thing), and so did, of course, the founder of a drone company.
So after a whole bunch of testimony a guy named Bruce Burkett, a lobbyist, was given permission to make some significant edits to the bill, squashing the warrant requirement and for some insane reason, enabling the weapons option.
Part of it comes down to police procedure, but as you might expect, much of it comes down to money.
“I think when you’re trying to stimulate an industry in your state, you don’t want things that would potentially have a chilling effect on [drone] manufacturers,” Al Frazier told The Daily Beast.
Who is Al Frazier, you’re wondering? Oh, he’s a deputy at the sheriff’s office who flies drones. Apparently he’s just really concerned with the economy.
This is causing a big stir amongst people adamant about protecting civil liberties. While weapons are allowed on the drones, the only thing with which they’re actually equipped at the moment is a camera – so if a warrant isn’t required to use it, you never know when a tiny aircraft could innocently float over your loud BBQ party just to check things out.
But in the U.S., generally speaking, if they’re allowed to do stuff with weapons, they do. So civil liberties aside, the fact that Cletus the agitated pot-bellied cop is now allowed to fly mini-choppers strapped with tasers and little rubber missiles just plain scares the crap out of me.