Drones in NYC?
A decade ago, no one knew what drones were. They might be something you would see in a futuristic sci-fi movie, but beyond that, they did not concern us. More recently, we’ve heard of drones being used in secret high-tech assassination plots, but they were still just a foreign concept. Indeed, there has been no reason to suspect they would ever figure into the daily lives of Americans. Within the last month, however, an NYPD street sign was discovered in the Bronx, warning passersby of drone activity in progress.
As it turns out, the sign was one in a series of fake street signs posted throughout New York City by an army veteran turned art student, who wishes to remain anonymous. The artist, who had worked with drones during two tours of duty in Iraq, was horrified by the potential use of drones by law enforcement here in America. To spread awareness, he created official-looking street signs, which displayed messages such as “ATTENTION: Drone Activity in Progress,” or “ATTENTION: Local Statutes Enforced by Drones,” or “ATTENTION: Authorized Drone Strike Zone, 8am-8pm, Including Sunday.”
While some may dismiss the artwork as a hoax, there is reason to suggest that these signs will become a more permanent fixture. According to an email uncovered through the Freedom of Information Act, the New York Police Department has consulted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on the use of drones as a law enforcement tool. With controversy brewing around many NYPD policies—from racial and religious profiling to mobile street scanners—New Yorkers have much to fear with drones in the hands of their local enforcement.
Earlier this month, Congress expanded the use of drones in the US by passing legislation that requires the FAA to make room for unmanned drones in US skies. Police departments in Miami and Houston have already experimented with the use of drones.
Near each of the fake NYPD street signs, the anonymous artist has etched words by Benjamin Franklin:
They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
As police departments all around the country prepare to utilize drones in the name of public safety, we must consider the inherent threat to liberty.