Drones Over North Dakota


According to the Wall Street Journal, the University of North Dakota is one of dozens of institutions revealed to have received permission to fly drones over domestic airspace according to records released through a FOIA request:

The more than 50 institutions that received approvals to operate remotely piloted aircraft are more varied than many outsiders and privacy experts previously knew. They include not only agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security but also smaller ones such as the police departments in North Little Rock, Ark., and Ogden, Utah, as well the University of North Dakota and Nicholls State University in Louisiana.

The information, released by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, came to light as the Federal Aviation Administration gears up to advance the widespread use of the drones. By the fall of 2015, Congress wants the agency to integrate remotely piloted aircraft throughout U.S. airspace.

Although the documents don’t indicate how the aircraft will be used, the disclosures likely will fuel privacy concerns involving drones.

On Thursday, Democratic Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Republican Rep. Joe Barton of Texas asked the acting administrator of the FAA to answer questions about the privacy implications of increased drone use.

The privacy concerns are legitimate. Were this simply limited to aerial imagery, it’s not such a big deal. I mean, who hasn’t checked out how their back yard looks on Google Maps before?

But these drones can carry additional surveillance equipment, such as infrared sensors and wireless sniffers, that can penetrate the privacy of your home far beyond just some pictures of your home’s roof and yard.

I don’t have problem with these drones per se. They’re a wonderful technological advancement, with plenty of legitimate uses, but the government needs to be 100% transparent in how they’re using them.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • RCND

    “…but the government needs to be 100% transparent in how they’re using them” ties, up front, we may not be able to

    That is the key. They for the most part are no different than a manned aircraft in terms of actual or potential capability. The ones being developed now however will cost far less than a manned aircraft to operate, thus making the technology more accessible to law enforcement agencies who otherwise can’t afford an aircraft. As research progresses improvements will be made, and the FAA will also become more willing to allow their use in more areas.

    If we are not on top of proper use within the boundaries of civil liberties up front, that is where the issues will arise that will be difficult to contain

  • sbark

    deleted a double post

  • VocalYokel

    They were employed months ago by law enforcement in Ramsey county.

  • http://flamemeister.com flamemeister

    Not enough drones needing taxpayer support … make more any way they can.

  • Guest

    Get a warrant, otherwise, no random searches.

    • VocalYokel

       Isn’t that pesky 4th Amendment annoying when you want to trample citizen’s rights?

      • noblindersonme

        They were employed months ago in Nelson County Yokel not Ramsey!
         and they were employed to protect the lives of sheriffs and deputys on the ground from felons with guns . Bailjumpers kinda give up their rights ! with their pesky and flagrant defiance of the laws !

        • VocalYokel

           Nelson County…I stand corrected.
          My comment on the 4th Amendment had nothing to do with the case in which they were deployed.

  • moors710

    Since the time I designed some things for the military, I have been aware of surveillance aircraft and space craft.  In my day the K12 satellite had some marvelously clear images that  literally allowed us to count the rivets on new Russian aircraft(That was sort of an assignment for newbies where they could do little harm).  That being said I welcome all of you to join my world view best summed up from an old Wizard of Id Comic:I know I am being paranoid, but am I being paranoid enough?

    • $8194357

      There it is 710…There it is….

  • http://randysroundtable.blogspot.com/ Randy G

    100% transparent? From these thugs? 

  • borborygmi

    100%  detail transperancy or 100% general use transparency?   I mean do they send out a note to John Q Dope Dealer we have you under surveillance by drone or the more general we will use drones to track and stop illegal narcotics?

  • two_amber_lamps

    So what’s the difference between a remote controlled airplane and one with a pilot at the controls sitting in the cockpit?

    Anything that can be mounted on a “drone” (ie cameras, infrared, “wireless sniffers” etc) can also be mounted on a manned aircraft… 

    These privacy issues existed before unmanned aircraft…  as Mr. Moors mentioned we have satellites that in large part put programs like the SR-71 out of business. 

    I think the existence of “drones” is just a lightning rod for continued concerns of 4th Amendment privacy. 

    Perhaps if we had a government that we had more trust in the people wouldn’t be so concerned about the toys it has at it’s disposal.

    • Guest

      That’s a normal comment.  Congratulations.

    • Camsaure

      Because they hog the airspace that they are in. They do not see other manned aircraft so therefore all manned aircraft are banned from the airspace that the drones are operating in. This includes crop dusters trying to make a living. It is more then likely another govt excuse to grab more airspace along with who knows what else.

      • Sean

        Not to defend these drones, but they will not occupy the airspace of any general aviation aircraft as they will be doing there snooping from 40,000 ft or more. We will not even know they are there. They will not hinder the movements of crop dusters or any one looking to fly around in a Cessna.

        • Diddy

          Your information is not correct.  There will be a large number of very small unmanned aircraft that will fly at low altitudes.

        • Camsaure

          And how do you suppose they get to 40000 feet, fly straight up from the airbase? Ever heard of transition areas? Your information IS incorrect.

      • tony_o2

        Drones can track ground targets from an altitude of several miles.  I don’t see how they are incapable of spotting other aircraft.

    • $8194357

      They also have first strike cabability with these drones…some are armed….

      • http://flamemeister.com flamemeister

        Getting things in place for the 2012 campaign.  Minimum: Psyop leaflet drops at minimum. Opponent surveillance.   Crazy?  Yeah.  Just trying to keep a jump ahead on this Administration’s thinking.  Dog-Eater fundraiser: “Give us a bone to buy a drone to keep the Throne.”

      • tony_o2

        The same weapon systems can be mounted on manned aircraft.

        The only difference I see between a drone and a manned aircraft, is the ability for someone to remotely hijack it.  For this reason, I don’t think that they should be allowed to fly armed drones in the U.S.

        As for flying drones with only surveillance equipment, I don’t see how this would be any different than flying manned aircraft with surveillance equipment.

        • $8194357

          Shoot tony…

          the minot air force base flew a nuke all the way across middle America and no one knew why?

           Imagine the magnetic pulse inflicted damage to 2/3rds of American land mass over that one..

          Russia first stated this as a possible way of “first strike” to attack the American continent…

          Technology is dangerous, no?
          How many secure sites been hacked latley?

      • borborygmi

        and they are tracking your ass.   Wizard of ID indeed.

        • $8194357



          Alger Hiss (November 11, 1904 – November 15, 1996) was an American lawyer, government official, author, and lecturer. He was involved in the establishment of the United Nations both as a U.S. State Department and U.N. official. Hiss was accused of being a Soviet spy in 1948 and convicted of perjury in connection with this charge in 1950.
          On August 3, 1948, Whittaker Chambers, a former Communist Party member, testified under subpoena before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) that Hiss had secretly been a Communist while in federal service. Chambers had previously testified under oath that Hiss had never been a Communist or a spy, and Chambers would admit, under oath, to other instances where he had committed perjury under oath. Called before HUAC, Hiss categorically denied the charge. When Chambers repeated his claim on nationwide radio, Hiss filed a defamation lawsuit against him.
          During the pretrial discovery process, Chambers produced new evidence indicating that he and Hiss had been involved in espionage, which both men had previously denied under oath to HUAC. A federal grand jury indicted Hiss on two counts of perjury; Chambers admitted to the same offense but, as a cooperating government witness, was never charged. Although Hiss’s indictment stemmed from the alleged espionage, he could not be tried for that crime because the statute of limitations had expired. After a mistrial due to a hung jury, Hiss was tried a second time. In January 1950, he was found guilty on both counts of perjury and received two concurrent five-year sentences, of which he eventually served three and a half years. Hiss maintained his innocence until his death.
          Arguments about the case and the validity of the verdict took center stage in broader debates about the Cold War, McCarthyism, and the extent of Soviet espionage in the United States.[1] Since Hiss’s conviction, statements by involved parties and newly exposed evidence have added to the dispute. Although in 2001, the New York Times identified what it called a “growing consensus that Hiss, indeed, had most likely been a Soviet agent,”[2] eight years earlier historian David Halberstam observed that many relevant files were and would continue to be unavailable, including “ironically—even though the House Un-American Activities committee is long defunct—HUAC’s own documents. These were sealed in 1976 for an additional fifty years. Until we have full access, the Hiss controversy will continue to be debated

  • dwnwiththeoldguard

    So what do you think about these drones?  They will be doing what in our airspace?  Researching the mating habits of insects?……

    • $8194357

      Domestic spying on dissenting voices, perhaps….

      • borborygmi

        They already know where you are.  You know the chip ….at the base of your spine……placed at birth.

        • $8194357

          WASHINGTON – Former U.S. State Department official Alger Hiss was the darling of the Franklin Roosevelt Democrats and the architect of the United Nations.
          That he was also a Soviet spy remains one of the most well-guarded secrets of the 20th century.

          But a new book, “Alger Hiss: Why He Chose Treason,” shatters the veil of secrecy so well maintained by “progressives” in the Democratic Party and a complicit media establishment.
          It all began unraveling in 1948, when Hiss was accused of being a Soviet spy. Because the statute of limitations on espionage had run out, he was convicted only of perjury. Decades later – after the Hiss trial had been long forgotten by most – archival evidence surfaced confirming the accusations: a public servant with access to classified documents had indeed passed crucial information to the Soviets for more than a decade.
          Yet many on the American Left still consider Hiss an iconic figure – an innocent victim accused of unsubstantiated crimes. They prefer to focus on the collectivist ideals Hiss stood for, rather than confront the reality of a man who systematically and methodically betrayed his country.
          Former U.S. Intelligence analyst Christina Shelton employs an in-depth knowledge of Soviet intelligence affairs as well as recently released Hungarian and KGB archival material to shine a fresh light on one of the most famous espionage cases. The story is dramatic, but Shelton’s analysis goes beyond sensationalism as she explores both the ideological motivation behind Hiss’s behavior and the lasting influence it has had on U.S. foreign policy.
          Why exactly were the intellectual elite so determined that Hiss was innocent? His accuser, Time magazine senior editor Whittaker Chambers – originally Hiss’s Soviet handler and author of the classic “Witness”– presented compelling written evidence. However, the intelligentsia were intent on supporting one of their own. They ignored the facts, a willful blindness that helped contribute to a polarization still in place in our country today.
          Thirty years of intelligence analysis gives Shelton the expertise to approach the story from many different angles, especially:
          Her persuasive argument that communism and fascism are not polar opposites, as has so long been claimed, but highly similar ideologies.
          How Hiss’s central role at the Yalta Conference and the founding of the United Nations are examples of the significance of Soviet intelligence recruitment of high-level Americans who could influence U.S. foreign policy in their favor.
          Why the silence surrounding the implications of Hiss’s espionage continues—and why apologists fear that smearing his name would undercut New Deal policies and the United Nations. Shelton doesn’t just detail the body of evidence pointing to Hiss’s guilt; she suggests new layers of meaning in light of the current political landscape.
          Today, the importance of understanding Hiss’s ideological commitment has never been more vital. His advocacy of collectivism and internationalism still resonate among the political elite, making this book an important and timely analysis of American thought at this critical juncture in our country’s life.

  • Guest

    Don’t let the facts about what UND was using their “drones” for interfere with an anti-higher education story…right, Mr. Port?

    UND used the “drones” to fly flood relief for the city of Oslo…But I’m sure you will still find a way to turn this into an anti Higher Ed story…go ahead…can’t wait.

  • dwnwiththeoldguard

    time of actual war, great discretionary powers are constantly given to
    the Executive Magistrate. Constant apprehension of War, has the same
    tendency to render the head too large for the body. A standing military
    force, with an overgrown Executive will
    not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defence agst.
    foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home.
    Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a
    revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under
    the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.” – James Madison at the Constitutional Convention, June 29th 1787

    • http://flamemeister.com flamemeister

      Too many Americans ready to give up a million-dollar’s worth of freedom for a nickle’s worth of security.

      We are … a crowd
      Of poaching hands and mouths who out of fear
      Have learned a safer life than we can bear.

                              —W.H. Auden, “In Sickness and in Health.”

  • $8194357

    I am still figuring on Barrys “NASA is to be used for Muslim out reach”
     to jump up in the news…

    Koran says allah will tell the holy jihad fighters look over there a Jew is hiding behind the tree as ‘allahs’ creation will turn on the Jew to aid and help in their destructuion…..

    Too parinoid…or not parinoid enough as the post above said?