The Secret Drones in America’s Skies

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


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.

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Corporations and billionaires don’t fund journalism like ours that exists to shake things up. Instead, support from readers allows Mother Jones to call it like it is without fear, favor, or false equivalence.

And right now, a longtime friend of Mother Jones has pledged an incredibly generous gift to inspire—and double—giving from online readers. That's huge! Because you can see that our fall fundraising drive is well behind the $325,000 we need to raise. So if you agree that in-depth, fiercely independent journalism matters right now, please support our work and help us raise the money it takes to keep Mother Jones charging hard. Your gift, and all online donations up to $94,000 total, will be matched and go twice as far—but only until the November 9 deadline.

$400,000 to go: Please help us pick up the pace!

payment methods

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Corporations and billionaires don’t fund journalism like ours that exists to shake things up. Instead, support from readers allows Mother Jones to call it like it is without fear, favor, or false equivalence.

And right now, a longtime friend of Mother Jones has pledged an incredibly generous gift to inspire—and double—giving from online readers. That's huge! Because you can see that our fall fundraising drive is well behind the $325,000 we need to raise. So if you agree that in-depth, fiercely independent journalism matters right now, please support our work and help us raise the money it takes to keep Mother Jones charging hard. Your gift, and all online donations up $94,000 total, will be matched and go twice as far—but only until the November 9 deadline.

$400,000 to go: Please help us pick up the pace!

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate