Homeland Security Oversight, Investigations, and Management Subcommittee Hearing on Domestic Use of UAS Unmanned Aerial Systems

July 24, 2012

The Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Management, chaired by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) held a hearing entitled “Using Unmanned Aerial Systems Within the Homeland: Security Game Changer?”

Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) have enhanced the surveillance capabilities for military operations abroad and have increasingly been used for homeland security. As of June 2012, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has authorized nearly 60 private and government entities to operate UASs in domestic airspace. The authorized entities include Federal, State and local law enforcement and academic institutions.

The hearing examined the benefits and challenges to increased domestic use of UASs.

McCaul said: “Unmanned aerial systems, commonly referred to as ‘drones’, have been a force multiplier in our military operations abroad and along our borders. These systems are now being used in the United States by law enforcement, government agencies and even academic institutions. Some Americans worry such systems will become invasive ‘eyes-in-the-sky’. Others say domestic drones will eventually be armed. However, no Federal agency is taking responsibility for creating comprehensive policies and regulations concerning the use of these systems domestically. Additionally, vulnerabilities to ‘drone’ hackers exist, as recently demonstrated by researchers at the University of Texas, raising concerns these vehicles could be commandeered by terrorists or others with ill intent. Our hearing will examine DHS’s role in the domestic use of unmanned aerial systems and determine the extent to which the Department is prepared to ensure oversight of domestic drones."

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