It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a… drone? Some police and law-enforcement officials in the U.S. are now selectively using the same technology that is seen in Iraq and Afghanistan. Small bird-size drones with high-powered cameras are a covert way for law enforcement to capture criminals, search for missing persons, and look for aircraft on the U.S.-Mexico border. As of now, the Federal Aviation Administration has granted permission for use to only a few police departments, but by 2013, the department expects to reformulate regulations to allow police nationwide to routinely fly lightweight drones. The unarmed devices will fly up to 400 feet above ground to be invisible to the naked eye and capture public activities with high resolution, infrared- and thermal-imaging cameras. The use of drones, which the Mesa County Sheriff's Office calls the best thing since the Taser, will likely result in a round of fresh search-and-seizure cases—and debates over privacy.
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