Frequently Asked Questions About Drones

What are drones? Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) are aircraft without pilots. Some are operated by computers on board; others by a human being in another location. The human operator can be thousands of miles away.

Are drones useful? Remote sensing drones can gather information using visible light cameras, infra red cameras, radar systems, biological and chemical sensors, and laser spectroscopy to detect the airborne presence of microorganisms, particulates like soot, and the concentrations of chemical elements in the air. Information collected by drones is relayed to ground stations in real time and can be used for forest fire detection, search and rescue, meteorological research and to monitor all sorts of human activities.

What is a surveillance drone? Surveillance drones use remote sensing technologies to monitor human activity. They come in many sizes and shapes. The MQ-1 Predator, made by General Atomics was initially designed for military reconnaissance and surveillance. It is 27 feet long, with a wingspan of 55 feet, and a max gross takeoff weight of 2,550lb. It can fly for up to 40 hours. The Raven, made by AeroVironment with a wingspan of 4.5 feet and a weight of 4.8 pounds “is a lightweight solution designed for rapid deployment and high mobility for military applications, requiring low-altitude surveillance and reconnaissance intelligence.” Other surveillance drones are manufactured in Israel, Canada and Turkey and are used by the militaries of those countries. A number of police forces in the U.S. have applied for drone permits.

How are weaponized or combat drones used? Weaponized drones, e.g., the Predator armed with Hellfire missiles have been used by the U.S. military to kill enemy soldiers on battlefields. They also have been used by the U.S. for targeted killings in countries where we are not at war. Armed Predator drones were first used (2001) to kill people in Afghanistan. They have since been used for that purpose in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen.

What is targeted killing? Targeted killing is a program of killing individuals who are not on a battlefield. The U.S. uses Predator drones in a secret program of targeted killing without a legal determination of guilt. No charges are pressed. No trials are held. “Allowing the use of warlike tactics far from any battlefield — using drones or other means — turns the whole world into a war zone and sets a dangerous example for other countries which might feel justified in doing the same.” See the American Civil Liberties Union FAQs About Targeting Killing. Drone strikes targeted at people identified as “terrorist” or “militants” have also killed civilians. “Sourcing on civilian deaths is weak and the numbers are often exaggerated, but more than 600 civilians are likely to have died from the attacks [in Pakistan]. That number suggests that for every militant killed, 10 or so civilians also died.” Daniel L. Byman for the Brookings Institution

Local and State Drone Resolutions

Draft Drone Resolutions:

Enacted Drone Resolutions and Ordinance:

  1. Charlottesville, VA, Enacted February 4, 2013
  2. City of St. Bonifacius, MN, Ordinance NO 115, March 28, 2013
  3. City of Evanston, IL, Enacted May 28, 2013
  4. City of Northampton, MA, Resolution on Drone Aircraft, Amended July 11, 2013
  5. City of Syracuse, NY, Enacted December 16, 2013
  6. Leverett, MA, Dones Resolution, Enacted May 3, 2014

More Local and State Resolutions at

In Peace Always!

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