As unmanned aerial drones proliferate in the United States, military and civilian affairs are intersecting in new and controversial ways: according to a New York Times report, the United States Air Force is training drone pilots by tracking private vehicle traffic on New Mexico highways. During a press visit on Holloman Air Force Base, Air Force drone pilots were reportedly observed trailing and tracking a white SUV on a desert road adjacent to the base, and then another car, which were shown on a television in a command post. When asked about the tracking, the Times says that an Air Force officer responded that it was "only a training mission," and that reporters were then "quickly hustled out of the room."
The US has multiple drone programs, some of which remain highly guarded — but knowledge of the country's drone usage is hardly a secret. As the use of drones in domestic air space increases, some groups have raised legal and ethical concerns: recently, a drone was used for the first time to help arrest an American citizen who was suspected of stealing some cows. And while high-altitude surveillance of civilian cars may seem relatively benign, the use of drones in US airspace continues to provoke concern with privacy advocates. Of course, not everyone suffers from such meddlesome ethical qualms:
DRONES OBSERVED DRIVERS FACIAL EXPRESSIONS & DEVISED A NEW THOUGHT-CRIME LAW, THE ENFORCEMENT OF WHICH WILL REDUCE TRAFFIC CONGESTION.— Drone Insertion (@DroneInsertion) June 22, 2012