Drones have become one of the most effective weapons being used in the war on terror. When a mission is too risky for troops, officials can send remote controlled aircraft into trouble spots and conduct surveillance or attack targets.
Recently, President Barack Obama signed a law which tasked the Federal Aviation Administration with developing a plan that would allow the use of drones in U.S. airspace. This could have major implications for individuals accused of drug crimes or other criminal activities that may require police to conduct extensive investigations.
The FAA is currently testing issues related to the use of drones to determine exactly what sort of uses will be permitted.
If law enforcement agencies start to use drones with regularity, it remains to be seen how exactly they will be used to investigate crimes. Perhaps more importantly to individuals, will police try to use drones to avoid obtaining a search warrant? Will police be allowed to conduct investigations without getting the court's permission?
There have been countless examples of the law not keeping up with technology. Courts still require police to get a warrant before installing a GPS device, so will the same requirements be in place before a drone is used to conduct surveillance?
For example, if a person is suspected of trafficking drugs, will the drone be able to follow an individual wherever he or she goes, transmitting live streaming video to a computer that officers may watch in real time? Can they wait to see concrete evidence provided by the drone before acting?
If it becomes easier to obtain evidence of wrongdoing, it could make it much less challenging for prosecutors to obtain convictions. Even if no crime is being committed, it could result in an invasion of an individual's privacy. It will be important to watch these rules developed to determine how drones will be used to fight crime.
Source: CNN.com "Poll: Catching criminals is fine, but don't use drones for speeding tickets, Americans say" June 13, 2012.