July 13, 2012 | By Jennifer Lynch

FAA Releases Thousands of Pages of Drone Records

We just received new information today about drone flights in the United States, including extensive details about the specific drone models some entities are flying, where they fly, how frequently they fly, and how long they stay in the air. The 125 drone certificates and accompanying documents the FAA released today total thousands of pages and were released in response to EFF’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, which has already uncovered the list of all entities licensed to fly domestic drones.

The 18 entities represented in the files include police departments from Seattle, Washington to North Little Rock, Arkansas; about 10 public colleges and universities; a few federal agencies, including the USDA and the Department of Energy—Idaho National Lab; and other entities like the City of Herrington, Kansas and the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources. For every entity, the files include the actual Certificate of Authorization (COA) application information submitted to the FAA (for each entity, that file is called "COA.xls"), and many other supporting records. The files go back several years and include COAs for every year that the entity has had drones. For some entities this is as early as 2004. 

We’ve included the records below in zipped folders separated by entity. Given how voluminous the records are, we’ve only been able to perform a cursory review so far. We plan to review them in more detail over the next week and post analysis here once we do. In the meantime, we encourage you to download the files and find out more about the drones flying near you.

The FAA documents we received mainly address saftey issues with drone flights, but there are still many unanswered questions about the privacy implications of drones. EFF is asking the Internet community to help us push for more transparency around the use of drones for domestic surveillance. We're proud to be teaming up with MuckRock in this initiative. If you are curious about how your local law enforcement agency may be using drones to surveil Americans, please visit Muckrock's site to submit an online public records request.

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