Sheriff’s Office wants to fly drones over Orange County skies

by Dan Tracy, Orlando Sentinel  |  published on January 14, 2013

orlando drones

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office is experimenting with two surveillance drones that it hopes to turn loose over Metro Orlando skies this summer.

Sheriff’s spokesman Jeff Williamson would not reveal specific uses for the drones, larger versions of which are known for flying over tribal regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan to drop bombs on suspected terrorists.

But Williamson did say Orange’s remote-controlled planes would not be armed. The agency still needs approval from county leaders and the Federal Aviation Administration to use them. The FAA said it does not comment on drone applications.

Privacy advocates oppose drones for civilian use, saying they can too easily be used to snoop on law-abiding citizens, not just criminals or those thought to be doing something illegal.

“This is unwise and unnecessary. … Sheriffs are supposed to be sheriffs, not the U.S. Army,” said Doug Head, a Democratic activist who closely follows Orange County politics.

Even so, drones are being deployed all over America, with at least 60 applications made to the FAA.

Most are being flown along the Mexican border by law-enforcement agencies looking for people crossing illegally into the United States.

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