Transparency Project

Drone Flights in the U.S.

EFF filed suit against the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), demanding data on certifications and authorizations the agency has issued for the operation of unmanned aircraft, also known as drones. The Federal Aviation Authority, part of the DOT, is the sole entity within the federal government responsible for authorizing domestic drone flights, providing a certification or authorization for any drone flying over 400 feet. Prior to our suit, there was no information available to the public about who specifically had obtained these authorizations or for what purposes. Through our lawsuit, we received specific and detailed information on the drone licensing process that was never before released. This prompted significant public awareness and discussion about the privacy and surveillance issues with drones. EFF partnered with MuckRock, an open government organization that helps individuals send requests for public records, to crowd-source FOIA requests to local law enforcement agencies about their use of unmanned aircrafts.  EFF also filed a follow up request with DOT for more detailed records in October of 2012. Additionally, EFF asked the Department of Homeland Security about how and why Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) is using its predator drones on behalf of other law enforcement agencies.

We have plotted out all the information we've received about applications to fly domestic drones on our Map of Domestic Drone Authorizations. (Clicking this link will serve content from Google.)

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