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Americans don't want drones watching them on the road

U.S. leaders are trying to figure out how to incorporate unmanned surveillance aircraft into everyday American life. However, citizens in South Carolina and throughout the nation have spoken, telling the leaders to use the technology for a better purpose, like looking for criminals and missing people, and not to use them for issuing traffic citations.

Less than a fourth of the approximately 1,700 people surveyed by a college in the Northeast said they were OK with drones catching traffic violators, and an overwhelming 67 percent said they opposed the idea.

The poll said Americans were supportive of drones, which are unmanned aircrafts, in several circumstances that did not include routine police duties. They supported drone use to round up criminals (67 percent), monitor illegal immigrants (64 percent) or perform search-and-rescue missions (80 percent.)

The Federal Aviation Administration has given approval for many agencies to use drones, including the military, the FBI, NASA, more than 20 universities and three U.S. cabinet-level departments. Now, the FAA has been asked to develop a way to integrate civil unmanned aircraft into broader use in the U.S. by Sep. 30, 2015.

Drones can be as small as 4 ounces in weight with a six-inch wingspan or as large as 16 tons with a wingspan of 240 feet.

To date, most U.S. drones have been used in missions overseas and have become weapons to eliminate terrorists in foreign lands. Back on home soil, however, high-ranking congressional and FAA officials said they were concerned about the domestic role of the drone technology. While they said they recognized that drones could help to assess and measure the effects of natural disasters, they said they worried the drones' surveillance capabilities would rob Americans of their right to privacy.

One civil liberties group issued a report last year urging drones in U.S. airspace to be used only when police are confident the aircraft could help to gain evidence on a specified crime. It also said that if someone's privacy rights would be affected, police should have a search warrant.

Source: CNN, "Poll: Catching criminals is fine, but don't use drones for speeding tickets, Americans say," June 13, 2012

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