March 12, 2013 | Deleted Users Posts Are You Being Watched? Deploying Drones in the Homeland Tuesday, March 12, 2013 Look… up in the sky… it’s a bird… it’s a plane… it’s a drone? Law enforcement is greatly expanding its use of domestic drones for surveillance. Drone manufacturers are also considering offering police the option of arming these remote-controlled aircraft with (nonlethal for now) weapons like rubber bullets, Tasers, and tear gas. Read the ACLUs full report on domestic drones. FlyersRights is pressing for changes to drone aircraft to guard against a “surveillance society” in which our every move is monitored, tracked, recorded, and scrutinized. The FAA is soliciting comments on privacy standards for an Unmanned Aircraft Test Program mandated by Congress to be in place by 2015, meant to increase drone aircraft into U.S. airspace by the thousands. The public can send their comments online by going to http://www.regulations.gov Docket No. FAA-2013-0061-0001. According to Time Magazine, drones are now available for as little as $300 that can be controlled from a cell phone. Drone makers are rolling out unmanned aircraft as small as hummingbirds and as large as jumbo jets with wing spans of over 300 feet that can hover up to five years. So why is Drone usage suddenly popping up all over the place? It basically comes down to Congress. Congress placed a mandate within the FAA funding bill demanding they “quickly integrate a wide range of so-called unmanned aerial vehicles, operated by both governmental and corporate entities, with commercial and general aviation traffic across the nation’s skies by September 2015.” In addition, the Department of Homeland Security announced a program to further “facilitate and accelerate the adoption” of drones by local police agencies. This includes giving grants and training to local police departments and assists in choosing the “proper drone” for their particular needs. A person might ask, “Well, we have police helicopters right now. How are these any different?” That question could be answered by giving just a little bit of information regarding the capabilities of this new technology. The small unmanned aircraft are far more maneuverable and quieter than helicopters and are capable of carrying gigapixel cameras complete with infrared and thermal imaging technology, automated license plate readers and facial recognition technology. They have the capability of tracking multiple targets simultaneously and providing surveillance down to the street level, providing authorities with a single “eye” watching everything that EVERYONE does at all times. But hey… if you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about, right? That, in a nutshell, is the primary advantage with drones. Advocates of this technology can defend its use by claiming that there is no violation of existing privacy statutes since “it’s not a human being that’s doing it”. This is a slippery slope that greatly concerns privacy advocates and many members of Congress. A Pilotless Airliner? Autonomous civil aircraft could be flying before cars go driverless Drone aircraft are widely used by the armed forces, but development of commercial flights without pilots in underway domestically. “A pilotless airliner is going to come; it’s just a question of when,” said James Albaugh, the president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airlines, in a talk he gave in August at the AIAA Modeling and Simulation Technologies Conference, in Portland, Ore. “You’ll see it in freighters first, over water probably, landing very close to the shore.” Later, pilotless planes will carry stuff to your very doorstep. In the fullness of time, they’ll carry you. Read more at: The Economist. TSA’s New Rules on Knives Flight attendants say they are “sitting ducks” with new TSA rules Last week, TSA announced it was tweaking the rules regarding small pocketknives, carry-on golf clubs and other sporting equipment. While travelers sick of losing their Swiss Army knives and other little blades rejoiced over the decision, flight attendants were up in arms. What could go wrong with the TSA’s plan to allow small knives and some sports equipment back on airplanes for the first time since 9/11? A lot. These new rules are simply embarrassing and raise questions about whether those on this review committee are dealing with reality. To some, they are a breach of personal security. On April 25, currently prohibited items, like pocket knives and baseball bats, will return to airplane cabins.“The TSA has lost its way,” said Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights. “Terrorists now can bring on board knives as sharp as the then-permitted box cutters used by the 9/11 hijackers. TSA screeners will have a whole new set of complicated, time-consuming inspections for knives that will further slow up airport security.” “This latest TSA policy should have been thoroughly vetted,” Hudson said. “Instead, they sprung this.” TSA receives 10,000 passenger complaints a year, and has no system for resolving them, said Hudson, also executive director of the Aviation Consumer Action Project, founded by Ralph Nader. Airline passenger groups have tried since December to meet with TSA Administrator John Pistole to discuss concerns about invasive TSA screening, theft of property from baggage, and rude screeners, he said. Airlines Give Humans Less Room Than Dogs The IATA (International Air Transport Association) minimum dimensions for kennels used to transport dogs give them more leg room on planes than humans. Strict guidelines on canines travelling in the cargo hold mean they must be able to turn around in comfort – unlike their human masters in economy class. No such humane treatment is afforded passengers, even with cases of deep vein thrombosis increasingly being reported on long flights. Wouldn’t it be nice to have personal space minimums just like dogs – two times our width? Wouldn’t it be nice to be subjected to the same pitch requirements as dogs – total body length plus one-half the length of your legs? Wouldn’t it be nice to have food and drink minimums for flights? Please, treat us like dogs! FlyersRights’ Partnerships! Flybag™ – the must-have TSA-compliant toiletry kit for the efficient traveler. Enter code: ISTILLFLY and you’ll receive one dollar off AND another dollar will be donated to FlyersRights! For more info, visit Flybags.com. Visit the FlyersRights online wine shop! Enjoy a wonderful glass of wine AND support airline travelers everywhere. You can’t miss with any of these wines.