Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies are increasingly borrowing border-patrol drones for domestic surveillance operations, according to flight logs recently released in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil-liberties group.
Currently, drone flights in the United States are tightly restricted for safety reasons. Other than the military, Customs and Border Protection is one of the few agencies permitted by the Federal Aviation Administration to fly unmanned aircraft on a daily basis within the country’s borders. This leaves the Customs and Border Protection fleet of 10 unarmed Predator B drones in high demand by other agencies.
According to The Washington Post, Customs and Border Protection flew nearly 700 such surveillance missions on behalf of other agencies from 2010 to 2012, and most of the missions are performed for the Coast Guard, the Drug Enforcement Administration and immigration authorities. They also aid in the search for marijuana crops, methamphetamine labs and missing persons, among other missions not directly related to border protection.