Friday, July 20, 2012

Adding Lasers to Predators? Oh My!

Another article directly related to UAVs appeared on my computer screen this afternoon. What's the gist of this article? The US Air Force will be attaching lasers to Predator drones, like the ones being used currently in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and will be  "testing" these laser-weapons over the skies of North Dakota. So what's the problem? Even though the flightpaths over the Dakotas is nothing like those over larger metropolitan areas, US airlines are concerned about the negative effects these "tests" might have on their pilots. Laser-equipped drones

So would this guy be even more-intimidating if it sported a nifty red laser?

Since I'm still quite interested in how UAVs are -- and more than likely will be -- utilized here in the US, last week I decided to focus my interest on how UAVs might be deployed here in MidMO. But who am I when it comes to writing about such things? The answer is "just another concerned US taxpayer," that's who! And so, I have exercised my "freedom" as a hard-working taxpayer to vie for the attention of a few of our public servants, specifically Col. Ron Replogle, head of Missouri's highway patrol, Cole County Sheriff Greg White, and Maries County Officer Mike Bonham who is also a candidate for Osage County sheriff.

As I communicated in my previous UAV posts, local law enforcement agencies should be closely-monitored as they begin, or continue, to use UAVs. All three of these men agreed with me on that point.

Officer Bonham specified that UAVs should be used for "rescue, (a) fleeing felon, drug eradication and (a) known armed suspect but not for day-to-day use of keeping tabs on suspects." He then added that the latter "would be unconstitutional." Sheriff White stressed that MidMO "is not a war zone" and therefore UAVs, at least the kinds that are being used in Afghanistan, should not be deployed here. But he did add that non-military UAVs could be used in the pursuit of an escaped prisoner, for search and rescue, and for fuel pipeline emergencies. Col. Replogle communicated that the MO Highway Patrol is fully-supplied with the more-traditional methods of aerial reconnissance, i.e. helicopters, and then said that he does not feel his agency would pursue acquiring UAVs in the immediate future.

I am satisfied that these members of local law enforcement and I agree on this major point: UAVs should not be used here in MidMO in the ways they are being used in the Middle East. But since MidMO is currently plagued by a methamphetamine problem, "wouldn't it be nice" (to quote that wonderful Beach Boys song!) to see how a few small, quiet and nondescript remote-controlled flying vehicles could be used to help correct this problem? But the ramifications of deploying them currently outweigh any proposed benefits compared to the technologies already in place.

But what if someone were to offer a handful of "robocopters" that were effectively equipped with highly-sensitive cameras to the agencies these men work for? Even when none of these men would actively pursue acquiring the machines?

Officer Bonham said "I would not be interested because of the stings that would be attached. In past experiences, these types of tests come with hidden costs that are too high to pay. Nothing is for free." Col. Replogle would be concerned that agitators on the ground would try to "jam" the communications between the authorized operators of the vehicles and the UAVs in question and therefore these jammings would pose a threat to public safety. He feels that the MO Highway Patrol's current stable of aerial vehicles is more than sufficient for accomplishing what he wants them to accomplish. But Sheriff White said that if UAVs were offered to his departmnent, he would accept them as long as the funds for them were already allocated.

Another concern I have is how the Intrawebz are packed with information for constructing and operating UAVs. And one website that continues to raise my dander as it continues to receive a supertanker-ful of traffic is

Officer Bonham believes that "technology is a wonderful thing when used in a lawful way and for personal use. The problem comes in when technology is used to harm others.... The right to privacy is a right I'm not ready to give up."

The talk in MidMO, even in the MFA at Freeburg, is that drones should be used to track down meth labs that have been set up in hard-to-reach places. So, after talking with these long-standing members of Missouri's law enforcement agencies, the fine people of Missouri are very blessed: as long as people like Col. Replogle, Sheriff White and Officer Bonham are in charge, we should not concern ourselves with the flagrant misuse of unmanned aerial vehicles here in MidMO.


  1. We are having massive budget cuts in my county and the police are pissed off. We figure it's best not to ask.

  2. Hello David!

    As long as local agencies face budget cuts, the possibility of them acquiring UAVs is slim to none... unless a federal agency usurps their authority!

  3. I dunno, our county is big enough that even with precinct closings, they could hide a laser armed attack drone or two. Nobody would mess with their budget after they revealed their plan! Or did I steal this plot from Austin Powers?