Public Comment

Statement in Support of a Citywide "No Drone Zone"

By Gar Smith / Environmentalists Against War (
Monday May 13, 2013 - 10:30:00 AM

Environmentalists Against War is a global coalition of more than 100 environmental, peace, and social justice groups committed to addressing the impacts of war and militarism. 

We are opposed to the introduction of police and commercial drones in US cities. We are opposed to the militarization of the commons by private corporations that hope to profit by filling the urban environment with surveillance drones. 

The FAA currently has no plans to prevent potential collisions with drones. Despite these unresolved safety concerns, Congress has moved to legalize domestic drones within three years. Government incentives will be used to encourage the country's 18,000 police departments to purchase spy-drones. 

By 2030, as many as 30,000 remote-controlled mini-aircraft are projected to fill US skies. Military contractors anticipate the domestic market for drones designed to spy-on-the-fly could become a $30 billion industry by 2015. 

Drones are already being used by paparazzi to stalk celebrities on the French Riviera. Drones are already being used in the US. The Pentagon's Reaper drones (the same kind used by the US to kill "targets" in the Middle East and Africa) are currently deployed along the US-Mexican border. Ten years ago, I reported on the existence of the Flybot, a Pentagon drone capable of hovering between buildings and remotely firing grenades and chemical weapons to suppress civil unrest. 

In the US, entrepreneurs want to use 100-pound drones to deliver pizzas. Like all machines, drones fail. As Wired magazine editor and former Berkeley resident Chris Anderson has observed, when drones fall from the sky they become "flying lawnmowers." Last September, a US Predator drone suffered an "inexplicable engine failure" over Afghanistan and was intentionally flown into a mountainside. Cost to taxpayers: $3.8 million. 

Aerovironment, a major US drone maker, has produced spy drones in the shape of hummingbirds and sparrows able to "perch-and-peep" on unsuspecting civilian targets. Some Pentagon drones are the size of flies. Aerovironment's Switchblade drone—a "robotic kamikaze" the size of a rolled-up magazine—can be quickly weaponized to drop bombs or fire rockets at a human target. 

Individuals and groups like Team Blacksheep have already flown spy drones over and around potential terrorist targets — including the Statue of Liberty and the Golden Gate Bridge. Even the most sophisticated drone can be hacked by a potential terrorist. In 2011, Iran famously seized electronic control of a Predator drone—which is now proudly on display in Tehran. 

As the conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer has stated: "I'm very concerned we're at the beginning of a revolution in surveillance that will not stop. It's like having a permanent camera over everybody's head, in every street, forever." 

For these reasons we support the adoption of the No Drone Zone resolution.