The Metro Police Department has added two controversial weapons to their arsenal in the fight against crime.
The new devices are the Draganflyer X6 unmanned drones and will be used as a defense against terror and other lawbreakers.
“Primarily what we're looking for the drones to do for us is enhance our surveillance ability on critical infrastructure or key resources during heightened threat alerts,” explained Lt. Floyd Hyde of Metro police.
While the pilot less craft is part of the Departments Homeland Security profile, they also raise questions and fears about privacy rights since the drones are unmanned and silent as they photograph or take out their targets without detection.
“The concern is that when you use these things loose without ensuring that there are rules and regulations and laws to ensure that these unmanned drones are being used only when there is probably cause, you run into trouble,” explained Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU.
Despite Weinberg voicing concerns, she also said she sees the value of the new technology.
“Technology is wonderful and the ability to do some of this surveillance when there is probably cause makes a lot of sense and is a great tool,” she said.
According to police, the silent flying machines will only be used by Metro over controlled targets where authorities have a perimeter established and the general public is not present.
“The drones will add to our aerial ability to move into the controlled area searching for a suspect that may be hiding on a rooftop or getting a closer look at what may be taking place at the second or third story. [They will be able] to give our tactical squad the intelligence they need to they can move in on the perpetrator,” Lt. Hyde said.
Even with the precautions, there are still those who ask if the drones are ‘Big Brother' watching.
“That is a tough question because I know there are people out there who believe that we are always trying to find ways to watch them. Well we actually have a lot of oversight,” Hyde explained.
At Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, the campus is adding a sixth concentration to its aerospace department, unmanned aircraft systems management.
The added focus will concentrate on the use of drones in farming, ranching and other commercial industries.
“Most of our test flights will be purely manual. Agricultural is one of the major appliances being examined,” S. Kyle Snyder, MTSU Unmanned Aerial Systems explained.
Snyder continued, “Video, still pictures, looking at crop health, animal behavior , ripeness of crops, are we ready to go out and harvest the field? Technology allows us to in this case with those who have farms and provide agricultural services allow them to survey their farms and that makes sense.”
Snyder explained to Nashville's News 2 the university is the only campus to have a partnership with the Army for the program.
“We have the only partnership agreement right now with the Army UAS program office between the program office and the university and they are interested in where we are going with out research and our education too,” Snyder said, adding, “We have already been talking with Nashville police, also talking with Franklin police and the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office is coming in this week.”
The question still remains if the unmanned lack helicopters could be used secretly to spy on innocent civilians.
“That is why it is important to know when law enforcement will use these drones and what happens to the pictures when they are taken in. Are we creating files on individuals?” Weinberg said.
Those questions remain unanswered as drone technology advances and become tools for private businesses and public protection.