US, UK mull way for greater usage of drones in air and sea

US, UK mull way for greater usage of drones in air and sea

US, UK mull way for greater usage of drones in air and sea

A model of an unmanned flying vehicle (UAV) protesting the use of drones is seen on Pennsylvania Avenue outside the White House. Drones have become controversial in their growing military use for surveillance and attack missions. AFP photo

U.S. court has approved the use of drones on U.S. soil by upholding the first-ever use of an unmanned drone to assist in the arrest of an American citizen.

A judge in North Dakota on Aug. 1 denied a request to dismiss charges against Rodney Brossart, a man arrested last year after a 16-hour standoff with police at his ranch in Lakota. Brossart’s lawyer argued that law enforcement’s “warrantless use of [an] unmanned military-like surveillance aircraft” and “outrageous governmental conduct” warranted dismissal of the case, according to the U.S. news website.

Court records state that last June, six cows wandered onto Brossart’s farm. Brossart allegedly refused to return the cows, which led to a long, armed standoff with the police.

At some point during the standoff, Homeland Security, through an agreement with local police, offered up the use of an unmanned predator drone, which “was used for surveillance,” according to the court documents. Local SWAT team chief Bill Macki said the drone inspected Brossart’s property to make sure that neither he nor his family members, were armed or left the farm during the arrest. Brossart was eventually arrested and charged with terrorizing and stealing property, as well as criminal behavior.

Domestic drone use has become a controversial topic in the U.S., with Congress directing the Federal Aviation Administration to devise guidelines for proper drone use. Congress has asked the Federal Aviation Authority to draw up rules to integrate drone use into the domestic airspace by 2015.

UK’s NATO inspiration

The agency is set to start issuing licenses for police and emergency services drones this month. It has already authorized the use of pilotless Predator drones in airspace above nearly 10,000 acres of North Dakota. In another instance, the U.K.’s Defense Ministry is seeking to develop a new generation of unmanned maritime “drones” that could be used for anti-submarine warfare and possible missile attacks on enemy ships, the Guardian has reported.

The ministry hopes to improve its drone capabilities after seeing how effective they have been for NATO against the Taliban, according to the report. The navy is already using a fleet of unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) in the Persian Gulf to help prevent Iran from laying mines in important sea lanes. The drones’ tasks will include anti-submarine warfare, mine countermeasures, anti-ship missile defense, counter-piracy operations and support for future submarine operations. They will be also used to attack potential enemies.

Air drones have killed scores of what the U.S. government says are al-Qaeda suspects in tribal areas of Pakistan and some other countries like Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia.

The use of drones remains highly controversial due to the possibility of civilian casualties and the ethics of using such tools. Pakistan wants drone attacks to stop, arguing that such strikes are counter-productive because they kill civilians, exacerbate anti-U.S. sentiment, and violate sovereignty.

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