Photo: The MQ-9 Reaper is an unmanned aerial vehicle developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems for use by the United States Air Force, the United States Navy, and the British Royal Air Force.

Three years later and the refusal to allow U.S. police forces such as the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department to take advantage of small and lightweight unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for aerial surveillance of potential crime scenes still rankles.

"The FAA is essentially trying to scare people into not using these devices or to require stricter authorization. But that policy exceeds their authority granted by Congress," stated Tim Adelman an aviation lawyer who is currently lobbying the Federal Aviation Administration on behalf of certain law enforcement bodies -- so far with limited success -- to drop its legal veto.

"We are seeing better UAS products that are functional and can be used by law enforcement," he continued.

Nevertheless, the FAA is maintaining its prohibition of the UAS for general use by public bodies except for testing and temporary emergencies such as brush fires -- at least until all of its safety concerns are ironed out according to spokesperson Les Dorr. He told Digital Communities that every so often a police force will determine on its own that it can ignore the FAA ban and start using UAS for investigations. "Some law enforcement departments feel they can do this for whatever reason -- either because they are not familiar with the process or they don't feel they have to go through the process [of FAA authorization]," he explained.

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Paul Weinberg  |  Contributing Writer