Civilian use of aerial drone surveillance is a reality that is quickly approaching, and this is great news for litigious environmental groups. Currently, if an environmental group wants to surveil farmers or any other group that is utilizing natural resources, they have to go through a burdensome FOIA process, and hope that agencies like the EPA give them more information than is legally required. Of course they can count on the fact that federal agencies like the EPA have a huge margin of error when it comes to illegally sharing private information with violent, radical environmentalists. This happened, and Senator Thune has been drawing attention to it this past week. I am sure the unelected bureaucrats in the EPA are really worried that they have upset a U.S. Senator. You can tell because they have requested that the radical environmentalists give back the illegally obtained data. This is a really hard slap to the wrist.
Needless to say this is all a big hassle. Environmental groups are much more formidable when they rely on their own data, then use this information to sue federal agencies in order to force them to undertake regulatory enforcement measures. This is why in countries without robust constitutional privacy protections, they are quickly adopting the use of aerial surveillance drones to enable stricter enforcement of endangered species protection laws.
Just this week, India announced that it was deploying drones to protect one-horned rhinos from poachers.
Aerial drone surveillance and radical environmentalism are a match made in heaven. Groups like the Western Watersheds Project, enlist volunteers to monitor cattle grazing activities, so they can harass ranchers and turn them in to the authorities. Instead of sending volunteers into the field to find violations, it wouldn’t be too expensive to instead acquire a fleet of drones and have them take surveillance footage. You can then use the human volunteers to monitor this footage through some kind of live-streaming activist portal on the web. You can monitor a lot more cows this way than you can by trudging through the mountains. Because the laws have been written to favor the interests of environmentalists, they will inevitably find violations with evidence as solid as drone footage will provide. The next step will be to file lawsuits. Once they win these lawsuits they can fund the expansion of their volunteer based drone surveillance program.
Obviously it won’t take long for this kind of surveillance program to self-fund itself into existence. However, because drone surveillance is also likely to bring benefits to those who utilize natural resources, it is likely that drone surveillance pilot programs will be implemented with the initial support of those whose lives and livelihoods will be destroyed by this technology.
The FAA is already drafting guidelines for civilian drone use, so this future probably isn’t too far off. If you are someone who is already in the crosshairs of environmental groups, I would keep your eye on the issue of domestic aerial drone surveillance, because it won’t be too long before those who want these drones will be keeping their eye on you.