The Secret Drones in America’s Skies

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So you want to launch an unmanned aerial vehicle in US airspace? The first step (besides shelling out for one) is to ask the Federal Aviation Administration for permission to fly it above 400 feet. So who’s been cleared for takeoff? Well, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation reports, that’s a secret. The Department of Transportation hasn’t responded to a FOIA request to release its domestic drone data. The FAA has said that as of last September, it had given the green light to 85 users, but it won’t say who they are or what exactly they’re doing.

The EFF is suing for the info, explaining that “As the government begins to make policy decisions about the use of these aircraft, the public needs to know more about how and why these drones are being used to surveil United States citizens.”

No doubt many of the drone requests are from government and law enforcement agencies with plans to collect images and data from above. (More than one-third of the more than FAA flight authorizations issued in 2010 were held by the Pentagon.) But it’s also possible that some of the requests are from more unusual sources. Anticipated civilian uses for UAVs include DIY hobby kits, crop dusting, package and pizza delivery. See here for more on the ways UAVs could be coming to the skies near you.

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In "News Never Pays," our fearless CEO, Monika Bauerlein, connects the dots on several concerning media trends that, taken together, expose the fallacy behind the tragic state of journalism right now: That the marketplace will take care of providing the free and independent press citizens in a democracy need, and the Next New Thing to invest millions in will fix the problem. Bottom line: Journalism that serves the people needs the support of the people. That's the Next New Thing.

And it's what MoJo and our community of readers have been doing for 47 years now.

But staying afloat is harder than ever.

In "This Is Not a Crisis. It's The New Normal," we explain, as matter-of-factly as we can, what exactly our finances look like, why this moment is particularly urgent, and how we can best communicate that without screaming OMG PLEASE HELP over and over. We also touch on our history and how our nonprofit model makes Mother Jones different than most of the news out there: Letting us go deep, focus on underreported beats, and bring unique perspectives to the day's news.

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