Notably, DPS at one point was using unarmed drones both along the border and elsewhere in the state, but according to the Electronic Frontier Founation DPS recently canceled its drone program because of maintenance issues with the high-tech craft. (I'd not seen that widely reported.) DPS shut down its program, they told EFF, because, "drones did not offer Texas significant advantages over the agency’s existing airplanes and helicopters."
Despite costs and crashes, though, the Obama Administration is pushing ahead to approve drone use by many more civilian agencies on US soil by this summer, reports IT World:
Expensive, crash prone or not, unmanned aerial vehicles will become far more common in the U.S. following legislation signed by President Obama ordering the FAA to approve more UAVs for law enforcement and fire/emergency uses beginning in 90 days.If the Congress and the Obama Administration are pushing drones, might a Texas Legislature that last year battled the TSA over intrusive personal searches decide to regulate them, and if so would they have any authority to do so? For that matter, do cities have authority to regulate low-flying commercial drones, or is that strictly an FAA responsibility? ¿Quien sabe?
The FAA has restricted use of drones domestically due to concerns that UAVs flown by untrained operators would become a hazard to other aircraft and danger to people on the ground.
The Obama order gives the FAA until Sept. 30, 2015 to make legal drones that are lighter than 4.4 pounds and fly lower than 400 feet.
They won't just be for police, though. The legislation doesn't limit the uses for which its drones can be used, which will almost certainly make life much easier for paparazzi, stalkative exes and hordes of the intrusive, nosy and curious.
It will also make life much less private for a population struggling with the loss of privacy online and, very possibly, not yet ready to give it up in their backyards to crash-prone, high-maintenance r/c helicopters that may be relatives of the Predators and GlobalHawks of the world, but without the reliability, trained operators and reason for poking their noses into someone else's business in the first place.
We seem to be at a "leap before you look" moment regarding drone technology. I'm sure there are benefits, but it looks like we'll be finding out the detriments the hard way.