The FBI has been contemplating using aerial surveillance drones since 1995, and are investing heavily in the technology as a cheap and stealthy alternative to manned surveillance aircraft. A new set of documents released by the Bureau—400 heavily-redacted pages of emails, memos and invoices—sheds new light on the deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles for federal investigations.
The Bureau has also sought new authority from the FAA, the agency which regulates unmanned aerial flights over the U.S., to “greatly expand the FBI’s potential deployment scenarios for UAVs.”
On October 30, the U.S. District Court in D.C. ordered the FBI to release its drone documents on a rolling basis to Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW), which had submitted a Freedom of Information Act request in June. While MuckRock and Motherboard’s own requests to the FBI as part of the Drone Census are still in process (and the Bureau is hardly eager to release anything), the 431 pages of documents offer a more authoritative and exhaustive view of the Bureau’s investigations into and deployments of drone technology than ever before.
The FBI sent its first batch on November 27, which CREW has put online in full.