Unmanned surveillance drones will soon begin "practicing" along the border with Canada by following the movements of people and vehicles below.
Whether the drones will be operating over Vermont is unclear. But government officials confirmed earlier this month that drones will be flying in the skies over adjacent New York state. They will be operated from the ground by members of the New York Air National Guard, according to a story first broadcast by North Country Public Radio. NCPR learned of the upcoming missions through hearings before the Adirondack Park Commission; such hearings are required when new aerial activities are planned for the skies over the park.
Air Guard ground crews will practice controlling the drones by following random civilians. They will not target specific individuals, and people probably won’t know if they’re being followed, Guard officials say. Maybe you’ll hear an aircraft overhead, but the officials say it will be hard to know that you specifically are being surveilled.
The drones are the same "MQ-9 Reaper" drones that have been used in warfare in Afghanistan.
The use of drones to monitor civilians within the U.S. raises significant privacy concerns. In a story published Sunday, the Washington Post said that "by 2013, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration, the federal agency that controls access to U.S. air space) expects to have formulated new rules that would allow police across the country to routinely fly lightweight, unarmed drones up to 400 feet above the ground -- high enough for them to be largely invisible eyes in the sky.
“Such technology could allow police to record the activities of the public below with high-resolution, infrared and thermal-imaging cameras," the article states.