Ray Kelly, New York City Police Department Commissioner, said that the department may use spy drones for conducting surveillance.
Kelly told a Reuters editor:“We’re looking into it. Anything that helps us.” Kelly said that adding a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) as a surveillance tool would be helpful in monitoring protests in the city. He said that the department might start with smaller drones available for purchase online or in stores. Kelly noted that the drone could be helpful in assessing the size of a demonstration.
The Federal Aviation Industry is still working out the details of a rulebook that will regulate how UAV's will be used within the US. The US Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, already use surveillance drones to monitor and secure borders. There are many other agencies who are applying to the drones. Privacy advocates argue that any blanket surveillance violates the fourth amendment to the US constitution : The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution explicitly protects "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently found that surveillance is comparable to a search and that it therefore ordinarily requires the subject's consent or a valid warrant.
However, the New York City Police Department already has access to about 2,000 surveillance cameras on the island of Manhattan alone. Other cities are planning to use drones as well. In February 2012 Congress passed a bill that allowed for UAV's in US skies.
The sheriff in Orange county Florida wants drones to be operating over metro Orlando by this summer. The area has over two million residents and is Florida's third largest city. A reporter at the Orlando Sentinel claims that the sheriff wants two UAV's to record the activities of ordinary citizens and criminals alike.
Last October, the sheriff of Alameda County, California said he wanted drones to patrol the skies of Oakland and Fremont.. Sheriff Ahern wants US Homeland Security to provide funding for a single UAV at first, at a cost of up to $100,000 dollars. Earlier in 2012, Janet Napolitano, Homeland Security Secretary, endorsed the idea of adding UAV's across California. Napolitano said:“I think it’s in California, looking at drones that could be utilized to give us situational awareness in a large public safety [matter] or disaster, such as a forest fire, and how they could give us better information.” A public poll conducted by AP found that more than a third of Americans had reservations about surveillance drones. David Eisner CEO of the Constitution Center told AP:" I had assumed that the idea that American police would be using the same technology that our military is using in Afghanistan would garner an almost hysterical response."