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L.A. County testing unmanned surveillance drones

Evan Blass
06.20.06
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We knew that something like this was coming sooner or later, and now the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has officially begun testing what will likely be the first unmanned aerial surveillance vehicle to be deployed domestically in an urban environment. Called SkySeers, these three-pound, six-foot wide drones will initially be used on an as-needed basis to replace helicopters in searching for criminal suspects or lost children and hikers, according to Commander Sid Heal, as the $25,000 to $35,000 upfront cost of each plane will quickly be recouped by the $1,200 saved for every extra hour a copter can stay grounded. Since each of the foldable, GPS-guided SkySeers -- which are equipped with remote-controlled thermal and pan-tilt cams -- can only stay aloft for a maximum of sixty minutes, it's not yet feasible to use them as round-the-clock watchdogs, but privacy groups are concerned that eventually the sky could be filled with drones ripe for all kinds of abuse. Still, unless you're involved in some shady activities, a few more cameras peering down from the sky shouldn't bother you much more than the bevy of ATMs, security cams, and cameraphones already capturing your every move from the moment you step out of the house in the morning.

[Via The Independent, pic courtesy of Octatron]

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