Poll: Catching criminals is fine, but don't use drones for speeding tickets, Americans say
The FAA says many universities, companies and government organizations are developing and producing 155 drone designs.
June 13th, 2012
02:30 PM ET

Poll: Catching criminals is fine, but don't use drones for speeding tickets, Americans say

Go ahead and use drones to track down criminals, to combat illegal immigration or for search-and-rescue missions. But to issue traffic citations?

No way, say Americans.

A recent Monmouth University poll showed there was overwhelming support for using unmanned aircraft in a variety of circumstances, but routine police work was not one of them.

Fewer than a quarter of the 1,708 adults surveyed last week said they would OK the use of drones to issue speeding tickets. Sixty-seven percent said they opposed the idea, and 10% had no opinion. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points (view a PDF here).

Compare that with the approval ratings for other drone applications: illegal immigration (64%), rescue missions (80%) and locating criminals (67%). The poll also indicates that 64% of Americans would be concerned about their privacy if U.S. law enforcement agencies began using drones with high-tech cameras.

Under the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, which President Barack Obama signed in February, the Federal Aviation Administration is charged with developing a plan “for the safe integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system as soon as practicable, but not later than September 30, 2015.”

The act is in response to the strict FAA regulations on drone use. It loosens those restrictions, allowing many government agencies to get swifter FAA permission to operate the unmanned aerial vehicles. It also allows any "government public safety agency to operate unmanned aircraft weighing 4.4 pounds or less," if certain criteria are met.

The FAA has authorized drone use for dozens of entities, including more than 20 universities, the U.S. military, local police forces, the FBI, NASA and the U.S. departments of Agriculture, Interior and Energy.

Drone uses vary greatly, according to an FAA document issued in March that outlines how drones will be used in six test ranges.

Not only can their objectives encompass everything from surveillance to searches to air quality testing, they can take many forms. Wingspans range from 6 inches to 240 feet. Weights run the gamut from 4 ounces to 16 tons.

"One thing they have in common is that their numbers and uses are growing dramatically. In the United States alone, approximately 50 companies, universities and government organizations are developing and producing some 155 unmanned aircraft designs,” according to the FAA.

The agency says it will select the test ranges in late 2012, with the first location becoming operational in 2013. The FAA currently has a test site at New Mexico State University, which it’s been using since June 2011.

There have been few incidents with domestic drone use, aside from an accident this month when a $176 million Navy RQ-4A Global Hawk went down in a marsh outside Salisbury, Maryland.

Outside the U.S., however, there has been widespread opposition to American reliance on drones to take out terrorists. A recent Pew Research Center poll showed that the U.S. was the only country among 20 surveyed that approved of using drones to kill extremist leaders in countries such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

Sixty-two percent of Americans approved of the strikes. The only country with an approval rate rivaling the U.S. was Britain with 44% (47% disapproved). Approval ratings for the other 18 countries ranged from 5% in Greece to 38% in Germany.

A separate Pew survey in Pakistan showed equally ardent opposition, with 58% of those surveyed saying the strikes were unnecessary, 58% saying they are conducted without government approval and 93% saying the attacks kill too many innocent people.

In an April letter to the FAA’s acting administrator, Michael Huerta, the chairmen of the Congressional Bipartisan Privacy Caucus said they had numerous concerns about how the drones would be used.

While lauding the benefits of deploying drones in U.S. airspace – including for “spotting wildfires and assessing natural disasters” – Reps. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, and Joe Barton, R-Texas, said “there is also the potential for drone technology to enable invasive and pervasive surveillance without adequate privacy protections."

“Many drones are designed to carry surveillance equipment, including video cameras, thermal imagers, radar and wireless network ‘sniffers,’ ” the representatives wrote. “The surveillance power of drones is amplified when the information from on-board sensors is used in conjunction with facial recognition, behavior analysis, license plate recognition or any other system than can identify and track individuals as they go about their daily lives.”

The congressmen closed by asking several questions. Among them: How does the FAA grant temporary licenses? Who has been certified in the past? Have any applications been denied, and if so, why? Is the public notified about where the drones are used? Who operates the drones? What data are collected? How does the FAA plan to make its drone use transparent?

The American Civil Liberties union also chimed in last year, saying that as drones become increasingly cheaper, law enforcement would ramp up its use of the technology, according to the December report, “Protecting Privacy From Aerial Surveillance: Recommendations for Government Use of Drone Aircraft.”

In the report, the watchdog group said drone usage should be limited to instances in which police believe they can collect evidence on a specific crime. If the drone will intrude on someone’s privacy, police should be required to obtain a warrant. There should also be restrictions on storing images of people, the ACLU said.

If the FAA cannot ensure people’s privacy, Congress should take action, the report demanded.

“The deployment of drone technology domestically could easily lead to police fishing expeditions and invasive, all-encompassing surveillance that would seriously erode the privacy that we have always had as Americans,” attorney Catherine Crump, one of the report’s co-authors, said.

In February, as the Senate considered HR 658 (the would-be FAA Modernization and Reform Act), the ACLU warned that Congress was trying to “fast-track domestic drone use” at the expense of Americans’ privacy.

In addition to concerns that unmanned aircraft crash more frequently than their manned counterparts, the ACLU said nothing in HR 658 addresses the “very serious privacy issues.”

“This bill would push the nation willy-nilly toward an era of aerial surveillance without any steps to protect the traditional privacy that Americans have always enjoyed and expected," wrote senior policy analyst Jay Stanley.

“We don’t want to wonder, every time we step out our front door, whether some eye in the sky is watching our every move.”

Overheard on CNN.com: Unmanned drones ignite domestic surveillance debate

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Filed under: Aviation • Crime • FAA • Politics • Technology • Terrorism • U.S.
soundoff (863 Responses)
  1. David

    Who were the approximately 25% that condoned using drones for catching speeders? What are they thinking?

    June 13, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cadillacjoe

      They were thinking they don't want police getting shot by drunks and drug runners, but still doing their jobs.

      June 13, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jesus

      The drones will disturb the invisible and imaginary sky God and his angels. It's not nice to disturb a diety....even an imaginary one.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Face

      Tea Party

      June 13, 2012 at 7:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pinkflam

      They aren't. They are the same ones that raise their hands when someone hollers, "Who wants to be a fire truck?"

      June 14, 2012 at 8:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Hugh Jass

      C-joe, the drones won't be pulling cars over on the highway. What are you thinking? They are spotters for the cop cars, same as planes.

      June 14, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio)"Right Wing Insanirty - Up to 5 words succinct"

    Catching speeders or liars?

    June 13, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jerry

    Communist state?

    June 13, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe Friday

      Dude, seriously, you have no remote idea of what communism is if you think this is it. Look around you sometime. Cameras are everywhere these days. They have been for decades. Traffic cameras, property surveillance cameras. Heck, go to any shopping mall and notice how many cameras there are in the parking lots and the stores. This is nothing new, and nothing remotely to do with communism.

      June 13, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Joe Friday is right....it's fascism which is much better.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • lefty avenger

      In America: Totalitarian Right Wing Police State Fascism and Left wing Socialist Totalitarian fascism seem to be the same exact thing.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hadenuffyet

      Oh, it's beyond that . Orwell's 1984.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hugh Jass

      "Communist state?" No thanks. That stuff doesn't work; ask the Russians and Chinese.

      June 14, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • jim kimbo

      civil war is coming the government is taking more and more of or freedoms and privacy. people can only take so much. first a recession which got people riled up.now big brother wants to take more of our privacy they already listen to all our conversations on phones and internet . next u will have to get a chip in your hand for all transactions. this country is turning in to a communist state the government is not about what the people want for the country the government only wants whats best for them. This country of the USA its turning in to the CSA Communist States of America. REVOLT is coming its time the people took a stand against Big Brother so the people can run the government again. revolution is happening all over the world countries want to be free because of the US but the US is losing its freedom turning in to what they say we fight against oppression and tyranny

      June 14, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bill

    If these Teavangelicals get in power, we'll have all sorts of monitoring and surveilance of everyone...just in case! Big brother is really getting the technology to be in our business and we need to stop this before it gets out of hand.

    June 13, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • lefty avenger

      Too Late.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hugh Jass

      "Big brother is really getting the technology to be in our business" That just means we'll have it, too, and we actually know how to use it. We know their names, and they know Hugh Jass. Big Brother better not start anything he can't finish.

      June 14, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Mike

    So should assume your on camera now. Don't pick your nose.

    June 13, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
  6. blam

    Just keep that head in the sand and everything will be just fine.

    June 13, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
  7. joshewa

    Another thing for the government to spy on it citizens

    June 13, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe Friday

      @joshews: the government is composed of citizens, too. There is no "the government" versus "citizens" in this country. Any citizen can run for public office. Any elected official can return to private life as result of an election. "The government" has nothing to gain from "spying on its citizens." This is the advantage of democracy: we are the government. Using drones to cite speeders is just another way to discourage people from speeding. No different from red light cameras or cameras in school zones.

      June 13, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • sipsen

      Joefriday makes a good point, sort of. What difference does the location of the camera make? Having a drone record drivers is not significantly different than using cameras on top of traffic lights to record drivers. I question, though, whether the use of traffic cameras is a good idea.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Joe Friday...try not paying your taxes. Your neighbor who happens to be an agent of "the government" will throw you in jail. What we need is limited government which is what we absolutely don't have right now. What we have now is two sides of a coin fighting for control of everyone else rather than just going about their business. One politician said in response to "why don't you just do nothing", "that's not really in our nature".

      June 13, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hugh Jass

      "Joe Friday...try not paying your taxes. Your neighbor who happens to be an agent of "the government" will throw you in jail." With a drone? You imagine them sending drones after people for non-payment of income tax? Dude, they send you a LETTER.

      June 14, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jeff

    The technology exists to make all of our lives a living hell, but not to worry folks. A single UAV system costs upward of 200 million dollars still. There is no way any state will fork over that kind of dough to possibly be able to aprehend a suspect. Rest easy, its just the media trying to make you paranoid and angry.

    June 13, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • athiest

      That may be, but the principles of those that don't get what a privacy impact this could be – are scary to say the least.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  9. JEM

    The War-on-Drugs has transformed the "Land of the Free" into the worlds "Prison Nation".
    Our loss of freedom is the fault of the War-on-Drugs AND ANYONE WHO SUPPORTS IT.

    Thanks a lot you Prohibitionists for ruining what was once a great nation. Thanks for transforming liberty into tyranny.

    June 13, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • schoolsub

      Freedom does not mean that you should be allowed to get away with small infractions just because the police have their hands tied by liberals who won't allow them to use any and all technology available.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Liberals? I think you have it backwards. Paranoid right wing nut jobs are the ones concerned about drones tracking them simply because they own a gun...

      And of course the public doesn't want drones enforcing speed limits, just like they don't want red light cameras. They parade it around like it is violating their freedom...freedom to do what? Break the law?

      June 14, 2012 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
    • adam12

      That's your opinion, these drones will be used top spy on everybody, not just the drug dealers.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • JayJ7

      I agree.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Raven

      Feel free to move somewhere better.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • lefty avenger

      The War on Drugs is a war on the american people. It wasn't enough for the Fascist Police Staters to create war with the rest of the planet, they needed to attack all americans as well. The Vast Majority of americans are more than willing to sacrifice all Freedoms for a false sense of security. America is a right wing corporate prison state with help from the left wing.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • ChazH

      Right on!

      June 13, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      Shut up loser, isn't it time for you to go get high?

      June 14, 2012 at 7:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Pinkflam

      Between the "War on Drugs" and the "War on Terror", we've pretty well managed to obliterate all concepts of freedom and privacy.

      June 14, 2012 at 8:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Roy Moreland

      Yeah, you're right. The only nation more oppressed than the U.S. is THE REST OF THE WORLD. Idiot.

      June 14, 2012 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
    • rock123

      Really, that's the best thing you can come up with. Blame the people attempting to keep this country safe. Because the drug lords and the people robbing others to get money to buy drugs dont have anything to do with the war on drugs. Yes lets stop fighting the war on drugs and end up like Mexico. 100 headless bodies dumped on the edge of every town. If you dont like being watched doing a crime, dont do a crime. Once you step out your house you can be watched by anyone that wants to

      June 14, 2012 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
    • skip

      absolutly. the morons that promote this crap are idiots. one in particular is the Va gov's brother jim. they fired him from Amtrak because he wanted to militarize the police department. and was an idiot like col flag in mash. people like him are fundamentally sick.

      June 14, 2012 at 9:17 am | Report abuse |
    • George Orwell

      Prison nation? The UK has CCTV all over. We've still got nothing on them.

      June 14, 2012 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
    • anchorite

      Hear, hear.

      June 14, 2012 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
    • CSI My Nannygoat

      I fought the war on drugs and boy, was it fun watching all those rockets explode. Wheee! Colors!

      June 14, 2012 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
    • shoos

      Legalizing drugs in your world hasn't been thought out very clearly. I'm pretty sure there would be a million more idiots abusing drugs if they were legalized. A person's sense of right and wrong goes out the window when they are smashed either on legalized or illegal drugs. We can't handle all the wasted losers high on crap now and you don't think it would increase with legalizing that crap? You live in fantasy land.

      June 14, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Saboth

      Any person with even a passing knowledge of history can see that our government has gained more power in the last 10-20 years than any time in history. It's quite shocking. Our government can now spy on us through the internet, phone, email, and in our own back yards with drones. They can imprison us with no right to trial or lawyer. They can assassinate us with no oversight. They lock us away for small things like recreational drug use. The US has a larger prison population than any other country in the world, including regimes like China and North Korea.

      June 14, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • TiredOfPaying

      Absolutely right!

      June 14, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hugh Jass

      "Our loss of freedom is the fault of the War-on-Drugs " I fought the war, on drugs, and it was a lot of fun shooting off the rockets at night.

      June 14, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hugh Jass

      I fought the War-on-drugs, and it was a lot of fun shooting off rickets at night. Whee! Colors!

      June 14, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  10. some guy

    If we shift some of our police force towards criminal and illegal immigration related tasks instead of traffic violations the drones are not needed. If we use these drones soon they will eat up policeman jobs, hamper the economy ,sour cops will turn expert criminals, and since less cops will be available 911 response effeciency will be affected and we might just become terminator 2. Instead shift the cops to criminal and homeland security cases. and for god sake have less severe sentences for speeding and DUI. i was stopped for DUI and it has ruined my life at 26. !!

    June 13, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son.

      I agree they should focus more on criminal activity, but they won’t because there is no money in it. Your average cop is nothing more than a tax collector for the city/state. However we do not need to lower the sentences for DUI. At 26 you are old enough to know how stupid that was BEFORE you did it. I have no sympathy for you.

      June 13, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shadowflash1522

      SomeGuy, I'm glad your life was "ruined" by your DUI. First of all, what the HE11 were you thinking getting into that car with a measurable BAC? Second, why are you whining given the number of other lives you could have actually ruined if you'd crashed before you got pulled over? No man, I'm with Tom Tom. You deserve everything you got.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • yourlogicisflawed

      Good. DUI is a hazard to everyone on the road, and if you haven't figured that out by 26 then you deserve what you get. You should be thankful you didn't kill anyone or ruin someone else's life because of your horribly irresponsible and selfish crime. Think about how your life is ruined the next time you want to get behind the wheel after drinking. If you want to blame someone for your "ruined life" blame yourself. You're the one that chose to drink and drive. Nobody here is going to feel sorry for you.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hugh Jass

      "i was stopped for DUI and it has ruined my life at 26. !!" Cry me a firkin river. Our county has been trotting this poor guy around in handcuffs and making him tell the grade-school kids about how he got drunk and t-boned another car and killed two people. THAT is having your life ruined.

      June 14, 2012 at 9:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Jean Sartre

      YOU ruined your life at 26; take responsibility for your actions!

      No one is going to lessen the penalties – already a big joke – for drunk driving, just so you can get hgh and potentially kill a lot of innocent people!

      You want to get drunk?

      Fine, do it at home in your own house and stay there!

      June 14, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  11. kareful-kay

    actually speeding is de-criminalized...it's a violation not a crim...idiot

    June 13, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      not under the GED Jan state of AZ

      June 13, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • PoopDolla

      actually...speeding was NEVER a crime...so it was NEVER De-criminalized...idiot go read a book before you post you moron

      June 13, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marine Combat Vet

      Speeding is a crime, in as much as it is a violation of law, thus a criminal offense, thus a crime. After I returned from Vietnam, I spent 33 days in jail for speeding, and nothing else. I was wrong and I endangered other people, and I fully deserved it. So what (?) does a person spend time in jail for NOT doing a crime?????? I admit I was an idiot, maybe you should do the same?

      June 13, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • CP

      Speed limits are arbitrary. Set at levels best geared towards cash generation.

      June 13, 2012 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cindy Maddy

      Not if you get a "super speeder" ticket. I.E., more than 20 miles per hour over the posted limit (or something like that...) at which point it becomes a felony or at least a jailable offense, if I'm not mistaken. Not a cop though, so I could easily be mis-informed.

      June 13, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • stta

      Are you saying then it is OK to disregard the speed limit and endanger others because it is a violation not a crime? What is just wrong with just doing what you're suppose to do and not doing a risk/reward thought process when following the rules of the road. If you kill or hurt someone because you're breaking the law, just say oops, I didn't think that would happen? Rules of the road are meant to protect everyone not to be disregarded.

      June 13, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Olaf Big

      The Government may be sloppy and inefficient, but it is not out to screw you. If I were you, I would worry much more about what your credit card issuer and you bank know about you.

      June 13, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • sipsen

      Changing the label doesn't change the substance. The reality is that the government has the right to stop you, fine you, and even arrest and frisk you for nothing more than speeding.

      By the way, in many states, certain types of speeding is a misdemeanor – such as going more than 20 mph over the limit.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
  12. gb333

    Its not just about speeding.

    I really don't want to live in a police state.

    June 13, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Top_News

      I totally agree!!

      June 13, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • LKS

      Getting rid of the states for just a federal dictatorship is on its way.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jake

      You already live in a police state!

      June 13, 2012 at 10:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • angied


      June 14, 2012 at 3:35 am | Report abuse |
    • ObamaUnitl2016

      Don;t vote for the GOP, then. They are insisting on the police state.

      June 14, 2012 at 8:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Lars

      GOP? Obama signed the integration bill. We wouldn't be seeing this had it not been made legal to fly drones in the airspace.

      June 14, 2012 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
    • JOSE0311USMC


      June 14, 2012 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      Well said!

      June 16, 2012 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
  13. Really?

    Your inability to grasp the overall picture is astounding.

    June 13, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Mike

    Seriously?! As a stauch independent, any American who feels that "monitoring" of any sort is certainly not of the same stock our forefathers were..before anyone answers the question posed above, they should consider what Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, Thomas Paine et.al. would have thought of this insanity!! "Speeding Cameras" were just the begining...

    June 13, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
  15. kareful-kay

    actually speeding is de-criminalized...it's a violation not a crime...idiot

    June 13, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack

      Perhaps Kay but did you know you are technically under arrest the minute they light you up and pull you over?

      June 13, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • geckopelli

      You are legally being detained for a specific purpose when you get blue lighted, not arrested.

      HUGE difference.

      June 13, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe Friday

      @kareful-kay: be more careful, kay, because it's a violation of a law. That's why law enforcement officers can give you tickets for breaking the traffic law that says how fast you can go. That's why you can be made to pay a fine and why you have to appear in a court of law if you want to plead not-guilty to that crime.

      June 13, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mighty Mouse

      Double Post Idiot

      June 13, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • infraction


      June 13, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scott Carlton

      Then I guess the warrants issued for the arrest of someone for not paying a traffic ticket is not real since its not a crime. The officers standing outside your house with their badges and guns are probably fake too since a traffic ticket is not a crime. In our state parking tickets however are de-criminalized and if you dont pay those the worse thing that can happen is a boot or towed car but never jail.

      June 13, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Klaas Jan

      The police will not storm your house, guns drawn, for an unpaid speeding ticket. Dullard.

      June 13, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • madmaninthemiddle

      Failure to appear is a crime.

      June 13, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
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