North Dakota the New Center for Drone Concerns


Wierd spider-bot drone

North Dakota is quickly becoming a hub for domestic drone activity. In June 2011, Nelson County cops made the first on-record arrest of American citizens with the aid of a Predator drone, the legitimacy of which will soon be decided by a local court. 

The University of North Dakota now offers a major in drone piloting, and according to the StarTribune, the brains behind the program seem pretty nonchalant about the invasions of privacy this technology can lead to:

The university also serves as an incubator for companies that might want to expand the industry. In five days, Unmanned Applications Institute International, which provides training in operating drones, can teach a cop how to use a drone the size of a bathtub toy.

"If you're concerned about it, maybe there's a reason we should be flying over you, right?" said Douglas McDonald, the company's director of special operations and president of a local chapter of the unmanned vehicle trade group. "But as soon as you lose your kid, get your car stolen or have marijuana growing out at your lake place that's not yours, you'd probably want one of those flying overhead."

In other words: There is no way drones could be used to harm or harass American citizens, at least not within the United States.

This rationale for the transparency of civilian activity does raise an interesting question. If law-abiding citizens should have nothing to hide from drones, why exactly are the government branches behind drone development being so secretive? Says the StarTribune:

And for all the assurances, there is much that isn't said or revealed. Some of the equipment used by the university can't be seen by the public because of federal privacy rules. Although legal, anyone photographing outside the base can find themselves being questioned by county, state and Air Force law enforcement. When asked how many times U.S. Border Protection has dispatched drones at the request of local police, a spokeswoman for the agency said it does not keep those figures.

If total transparency is the want, common sense indicates that both sides should be transparent. Drones obviously aren't going away, so it's time for a little less secrecy on behalf of the state.

We're waiting.

More on drones here, here, and here.

NEXT: Joe Scarborough Finds a New Scapegoat for the Aurora Shootings

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  1. I have a cunning plan. The government should assign a drone to each person in the United States to follow him everywhere he goes. If the drone decides its assigned person has become a danger to the state, drone process will be carried out.

    The beauty of this plan is that we’ll achieve that elusive total security that our government so craves, and we’ll stimulate the economy with orders for hundreds of millions of drones. Maybe even more, as other countries order drone services from the U.S.

    People who don’t have an assigned drone, of course, will be provided drone process, free of charge.

    1. I am imagining the airspace over major metropolitan areas…

      1. …as a free-fire zone?

        1. One nice thing about replacing police with drones: If a rogue drone kills a citizen without cause, its processor can be removed and executed. Also, no more unions.

          1. Until someone decides to give worker’s rights to the drones. What do you think the War with the Machines is really going to be about?

            1. We wouldn’t be dumb enough to build drone lawyers, would we?

              1. Robot Mayor: I intend to demonstrate beyond 0.5% of a doubt that these humans before us are guilty of the crime of being humans. Come to think of, I rest my case.
                Computer Judge: Thank you prosecutor, I will now consider the evidence.

              2. Too late! Bwahahaha . . .

                [strokes obese white Persian cat]

          2. Do the dogs get their own drones too?

  2. “… or have marijuana growing out at your lake place that’s not yours, you’d probably want one of those flying overhead.”

    Um, no, that’s exactly why I *wouldn’t* want it. Then I would be falsely accused. Raided, pets murdered, procedure followed deaths allowed, etc.

    Seriously how the fuck is that even remotely a good reason?

    1. You’re taking him at face value, Meta. I interpreted this as a variation of “the innocent have nothing to fear” intimidation ploy.

      1. I guess that was his intention. And I guess people really are dumb enough to be like… shit, I forgot his name, a character in 1984 whom Winston knew well, accused of thoughtcrime but was convinced that since the party never accuses anyone falsely, he must be guilty.

        Also, looking at the rest of it… How exactly is this going to stop kidnapping? And car theft/location can be done with GPS devices already. Way to go media, for not questioning him about this. Color me surprised /s

      2. I believe you’re thinking of Parsons, the faithful follower.

  3. As long as you’re not doing anything wrong…

    1. His statement is even creepier than the usual: if you even have a problem with it, there oughta be a drone on you.

  4. I wonder how easy those things are to shoot down. Could they withstand an ordinary skeet load?

    1. Can you survive air-to-ground missiles?

    2. What about a 30-06? How high up are these things?

      1. Suddenly that 50cal doesn’t sound all that unnecessary.

      2. A 30-06 would be great for drone hunting. You just need an angled rest or a swiveling mount to shoot up in the sky like that.

        Uhh…you’d better not miss. lolzolzozlzlz

        1. That would be a brutally tough shot, figuring the distance and then the bullet drop at an acute angle like that.

    3. Yeah, I’ve had some questions about that as well. I think a net launcher would do an even better job on the small ones. A Predator, on the other hand, will require something a bit more hefty.

    4. During the Cold War, nuclear missiles were, until the ABM treaty, countered by anti-missile missiles, which were countered by anti-missile-missile missiles. By extrapolation, one would assume that drones will be met by anti-drone drones.

      1. It will be interesting to see. At the very least, the DoD must be developing anti-drone weapons, given that other countries will begin (have begun?) developing their own.

        1. I’d be shocked if we aren’t already developing drones that do nothing but hunt down other drones.

          1. Drone-on-drone violence.

            1. These aren’t the drones you’re looking for! He can go about his business.

      2. At the very least, drones can be used by people outside of the machinations of the state……

        1. People should start using private drones now, before the government grants itself a monopoly.

          The right to bear drones?

          1. I could get behind that. “Arms” does not necessarily mean “guns” in my interpretation of the Second Amendment. It means contemporary military technology. There is a lot that probably should be legal if we expect the Second Amendment to remain relevant, especially with a state that is becoming more militarized by the day.

            1. I doubt the second amendment was understood to apply to contemporary heavy military weaponry, like cannons.

              It seems more plausible to define arms as weapons typically carried by a foot soldier.

              1. Ah, Tulpa once again. The point of the Second Amendment is to allow the citizenry enough decent gear to go toe-to-toe with a military. Supposing you agree with that premise (and I understand that you do not), it would seem that quite a few illegal technologies could be justified. Remember that colonials carried state-of-the-art firearms back in the day, and the Founding Fathers had no serious qualms about that. A proper reading of the right to bear arms must sensibly keep with the tech of the times.

              2. I doubt the second amendment was understood to apply to contemporary heavy military weaponry, like cannons.

                That’s exactly the way it was applied back in the day, up to and including smallish warships.

              3. Plenty of cannons were owned by private parties (particularly merchant ships).

          2. The point of a drone is that you don’t bear it. Or keep it for that matter.

  5. I’m afraid that drones are much more in use by domestic law enforcement than said domestic law enforcement is currently willing to admit. The recent horror stories of surplus DOD equipment “disappearing and unaccounted for” to the tune of a few billion dollars worth of equipment tells a simple story.

    If most of us found out how much military equipment LEO SWAT operations are currently hoarding people would freak the hell out (NO, YOU DO NOT NEED A TANK SQUADRON IN MAYBERRY). And then they’d want to take the toys away.

    This would explain the secrecy at least.

  6. “The University of North Dakota now offers a major in drone piloting…”

    You need a college degree for that? Really?

    1. Seriously. I think you just need to complete the latest edition of Ace Combat.

      1. Nah. Microsoft Flight Simulator. Ace Combat’s flight model isn’t nearly realistic enough. MS Flight Sim is, believe it or not, used for early flight training by a lot of private flight schools and universities that offer pilot training. /pedantic

  7. “If you’re concerned about it, maybe there’s a reason we should be flying over you, right?”


    1. “Wait, you’re talking about it, too. WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO HIDE, WITH YOUR CLEVER MISDIRECTION?”

  8. Small drones have apparently been shot down before.…..of-the-sky

  9. From the article:

    The University of North Dakota now offers a major in drone piloting…. In five days, Unmanned Applications Institute International, which provides training in operating drones, can teach a cop how to use a drone the size of a bathtub toy.

    Once again, government padding out a 5-day training session into a 4-year degree.

    1. a drone the size of a bathtub toy

      male or female?

  10. Is it weird that I heard the buzzing of a small engine around my house while I was reading these comments? I actually got up and went outside to look for the source but, alas, it had receding…(into the sky?)

    I live in the country, btw. Not usual to hear what sounded like an R/C engine.

    1. I had a rather large bee, hornet like in appearance only larger, stalking me yesterday. For two minutes or more or stared into my kitchen door, even after I halfheartedly tried to scare if off. I went into my basement garage and saw it there, then heard its distinctive buzz outside my bathroom window when I went to take a shit.

      That expensive little flying camera will be getting the newspaper treatment next time is comes around.

  11. ND has well-regarded programs for people that want to be pilots. It’s probably a natural that they’d be look for new market “opportunities.” But you guys are right – WTF do you need a four-year degree for to pilot a drone?

  12. When asked how many times U.S. Border Protection has dispatched drones at the request of local police, a spokeswoman for the agency said it does not keep those figures.


    What the fuck. What else can be said.

    1. wait wait wait. Is it possible they meant that they just don’t know “how many times dispatched FOR LOCAL POLICE” and they DO actually keep track of each deployment, just not unimportant details like why/who/when/where….

  13. Don’t seizure laws mean they could take your lake place even if you were not involved in the drug activity?

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