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US Sky Regulator Clips Wings Of Los Angeles Police Drone

The UAV SkySeer Drone. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Staff Writers
Los Angeles (AFP) Jun 22, 2006
US aviation regulators grounded Thursday a Los Angeles crime-fighting drone aircraft due to concerns over potential air traffic accidents.

The SkySeer drone that was tested by the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department relies on surveillance technology most commonly used in combat zones, but law enforcement would like to see it used in the streets of the second most populous US city.

But the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department has not yet obtained the proper authorization to test the kite-like craft and has put the case under review.

The Sheriff's Department demonstrated SkySeer for the media last week in the city of Redlands, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) east of Los Angeles.

"When the Sheriff's held the press conference last week, we did not expect them to actually fly the craft," FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown told AFP.

"We need to know how and where they plan to operate the craft, and most importantly at what altitude so that it will not interfere with already congested air traffic," she said.

The drone is the same size as a remote control airplane and is outfitted with two tiny cameras that beam real-time images to a ground command station.

Police say the craft, which is inconspicuous and virtually silent, will aid search and rescue missions and may be helpful in tracking suspects fleeing on foot.

The FAA, which normally sets a "band of airspace" for unmanned aerial vehicles, believes the SkySeer exceeded appropriate altitude levels during its field test last week.

Octatron, the designer and operator of SkySeer, could face a civil penalty, according to Brown.

The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department was not available for comment.

Privacy advocates have raised concerns over the potential for SkySeer to infringe on personal space. "This is really science fiction in our daily lives," Beth Givens of The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse told AFP.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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