Earlier this week, the Secret Service fetched a drone flown by a tipsy government employee off the White House Lawn, and yesterday the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) asked football fans to keep the Superbowl game a “No Drone Zone” in a PSA.

While drone popularity has soared among hobbyists, it hasn’t stopped there. Though it doesn't seem super legal for them to be flown by fans spying on the Patriots’ equipment staff on Sunday or toasted staffers looking to check in on the Obamas at 3 a.m., that staffer wasn’t charged

Gerald Nino/wikimedia commons

From Marfa Public Radio:

The Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General is out with harsh words for the agency’s eight-year-old border drone program, saying unmanned air patrols of the border are “dubious achievers.”

In a report released last week, Inspector General John Roth said the department’s own sub-agency – U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) – hasn’t proven the drone program is worth paying for, and that CBP should scrap any plans to expand it.

Flickr user Greg Goebel, https://flic.kr/ps/z7irw

In Fort Bliss military base in El Paso, Texas a new airport is being built. But it won't cater to pilots or offer any amenities common to the typical airstrip –because this one is being built exclusively to house the U.S Army aerial drones.

If an aerial drone fleet housed in a state of the art bunker sounds like something out of a science fiction movie, you're not far off. The Texas Standard's David Brown speaks with John Horgan, writer for the Scientific American online and teacher at the Stevens Institute for Technology

The Federal Aviation Administration says it has issued the first permit in its history for an unmanned aircraft to fly over U.S. soil. Oil company BP will use a drone from the company AeroVironment to conduct surveys in Alaska.

The first drone flights under the recently issued waiver have already taken place, the FAA says.

From the agency's news release:

The price of drones is dropping — a decent one could cost you $300 — but the reality of the devices flying around cities and neighborhoods doesn't sit well with a lot of Americans.

Are they just paranoid?

Three months ago, when Michael Kirschner and his wife purchased a new condo in San Francisco, they were not concerned about drones. They fell in love with the unit because of its big picture windows.

"You have a view that reaches all the way out to the Golden Gate Bridge," Kirschner says.

The White House has decided that it will let Senators read a secret memo that makes the legal case for the government's ability to target Americans abroad using a drone strike.

NPR's Carrie Johnson tells our Newscast unit that the move is designed to head off a confirmation battle over one of its judicial nominees.

Carrie filed this report:

"A Republican Senator and the American Civil Liberties Union have joined forces to try to block David Barron from serving as a federal appeals court judge.


Update 12/30/13: The Federal Aviation Administration has selected Texas A&M - Corpus Christi as one of six drone testing sites across the U.S. The FAA says the Corpus Christi site "plans to develop system safety requirements for UAS vehicles and operations with a goal of protocols and procedures for airworthiness testing." 

Sites in Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota and Virginia were also chosen.

Hear more about A&M's drone plans in the interview below.

Original story 10/09/13: From Manhattan to Afghanistan, drones have become big news and big business. Now, there’s a move to turn the skies over Texas into one of the world’s leading drone test sites. 

KUT’s David Brown talks with Ron George, a senior research development officer at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi , and one of the planners of a new drone development center.

The news that Amazon is hoping to one day use semi-autonomous drones to deliver small packages to customers has many asking a familiar question:

What could go wrong?

Check this tweet:

"An Amazon drone!? What could go wrong?! 'They're autonomous' - this is how the Terminator started FYI..."

Matthew Alvarez for KUT News

New unmanned aerial vehicles – better known as drones – could soon roam over the Arctic and Polar regions of the planet. And at the University of Texas, engineering students aren’t working on the planes themselves, but rather the autonomous flight capability of the unmanned aircraft.

UT grad students at the Cockrell School of Engineering recently headed out to an open field with a movable sensor – called a rover –and a small drone aircraft to perform a test flight. The drone was programmed with an operating system that charts a path for performing a task, also known as an algorithm. It instructed the drone to follow the rover, which acted as a moving target.

The prospect of drone-dotted skies across Texas isn’t such a far-off thought.

The technology exists, and Gov. Rick Perry even signed a law regulating their use last week.

While the legislation provides some oversight, it carves out some strange exceptions. And the burgeoning industry is waiting for the FAA to establish federal regulation.

83rd Lege's Regular Session: What Happened, What Didn't

May 28, 2013
Bob Daemmrich/Marjorie Kamys Cotera/Todd Wiseman via Texas Tribune

It's been a whirlwind of an end to the 83rd Legislature's regular session, and with Monday's announcement of a special session, lawmakers aren't done. Here's a look at the deals reached and the measures that fell short during the 140 days of the regular session. 


For the first time, the U.S. government has acknowledged killing four American citizens in lethal drone strikes far outside traditional battlefields, confirming information that had been widely known but has only recently been unclassified under orders of the president.


The Texas House passed a bill last night that could limit the use of aerial drones by both law enforcement and private citizens.

Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Terrell, points out that police need a warrant to enter private property, and says his bill would provide the same requirement for law enforcement using drones.

In Al-Qaida Document, 22 Tips To Avoid Drones Strikes

Feb 22, 2013

As al-Qaida extremists streamed out of Timbuktu, they left behind a curious document and the Associated Press got its hands on it.

It's written by Abdallah bin Muhammad, a senior commander of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemeni arm of the group, and it includes 22 bulleted tips on how to evade drone strikes.

In an apparent reference to U.S. drone strikes, President Obama in his State of the Union speech defended the administration's continued use of "direct action" against terrorists and promised to work with Congress to ensure such targeting is lawful and transparent.

The president said that "where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans."

The controversy over President Obama's targeted-killings-by-drone policy is a reminder that the default position of presidents in times of crisis is generally to side with national security over civil liberties.

Update at 5:35 pm ET. Brennan on drones:

As senators questioned John Brennan, the nominee to head the CIA, one of the recurring themes was the broader impact of the lethal drone strikes.

Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, asked whether the Obama administration was killing terrorists who might otherwise be captured and interrogated.

Brennan insisted that it was always preferable to capture and question terrorists to gather intelligence, and he said lethal strikes were taken as a last resort.

A confidential Justice Department memo obtained by NBC News outlines legal theories the Obama administration has used to justify killing American citizens abroad. Here are five key questions and answers about the document:

1) What is it?

Eddie Seal, Texas Tribune

A drone, no bigger than a toy airplane, hovered north of the Texas Capitol, floating over the heads of lawmakers momentarily distracted from their morning meetings. Several of them gathered beneath it, faces tilted skyward, marveling over a pair of goggles that allowed them to watch live video of the drone’s panoramic bird’s eye view.

The United Nations' special rapporteur for human rights and counterterrorism launched an investigation Thursday into the United States' targeted killing program.

Ben Emmerson, from Britain, will lead the inquiry, which will focus on the civilian effect of the program as well, as the legal framework governing drone attacks.

Reuters explains: