Fear of privacy breach rises as US schools look to drones for 'scientific research'

Last Updated: Fri, Mar 01, 2013 11:30 hrs

Thirty-four colleges and universities have applied for permission to fly unmanned surveillance drones over campuses across America in 2012, according to records obtained by a privacy watchdog group.

The schools cite plans for aerospace, geomatics, ecological and aquatic research, yet activists and privacy experts are nevertheless concerned about the high-flying spies, reports Fox News.

Josiah Ryan, editor-in-chief of conservative education blog Campus Reform, said he finds it troubling that this is the first most students have heard of secret plans to fly military-grade spy machines high above their dorms, classrooms and quads. He added that the constitutional right to privacy does not end on campus. The presidents of each of these 34 institutions owe their students, donors and taxpayers an explanation, he said.

The use of unmanned drones has soared in the U.S. military, which has come to rely on the robotic planes for targeted attacks and covert spying worldwide.

Domestically, drone use has skyrocketed as well: More than 80 applications for drone-flying permits were filed with the Federal Aviation Administration in 2012, including more than thirty universities, according to records obtained by watchdog group the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The lists of higher-learning institutions that have applied for the drone permits include: Cornell University, the University of Michigan, the University of Florida, the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In recent years, the federal government has ramped up efforts to issue private licenses for drone use with nearly 1,500 issued since 2007, according to statistics released this month. While only 327 of those permits are still active, the findings have done little to quell the public's paranoia that big brother may be watching. (ANI)

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