The Secret Service has announced that they will begin testing unmanned drones in the skies over Washington D.C., leading some observers to voice fears that the remotely controlled aircraft could be armed or weaponized.
In a short statement released last week, the Secret Service announced that their drone testing program would begin this month, as the Washington Post reports. The troubled agency, which has faced a round of high profile security breaches in the area surrounding the White House, gave only sparse details on the timing or nature of the upcoming drone flights.
“The United States Secret Service, in conjunction with other inter-agency partners, will conduct a series of exercises involving unmanned aircraft systems, in the coming days and weeks.”
“Because these exercises will be conducted within the normally flight restricted areas in the Washington D.C. area, they have been carefully planned and will be tightly controlled. In preparation for these exercises the Secret Service has coordinated with all appropriate federal, state and local agencies.”
As the Daily Mail points out, experts noted that the Secret Service stopped short of revealing that they possess or will utilize armed, weaponized drones. Some observers have asserted that the drones could be used for surveillance, or to combat any unmanned aerial vehicles that violate White House airspace, as in one recent incident that the Inquisitr previously reported.
— The Verge (@verge) February 25, 2015
Michael Drobac, executive director of the Small UAV Coalition, referenced a recent executive order issued by President Obama that governs drone usage by federal agencies to point out that the Secret Service would need to reveal their plans in the future.
“They’re going to have to disclose what they intend to do at some point, because that’s exactly what it says in the executive order,” he noted. “Agencies have to be transparent.”
— Popular Mechanics (@PopMech) February 27, 2015
Brendan Schulman, who heads the unmanned aircraft systems practice at Kramer Levin, a New York law firm, noted that the usage of drones in Washington might imply that the Secret Service possesses technology beyond what has already been disclosed.
“They’re testing it in the field, as opposed to just testing it at a research station,” he pointed out. “That might suggest that they are closer to an actual functional defense mechanism than the public might think.”
The president’s recent executive order is meant to protect against invasion of privacy by drones utilized by federal authorities, and requires agencies employing the aircraft to publish guidelines on their intelligence gathering operations. Drobac noted that as long as the Secret Service drone program doesn’t compromise privacy, he supports it.
[Photo by Brendon Thorne/ Getty Images]