Originally published on Tue April 17, 2012 12:45 pm
Congress recently passed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which — along with funding the Federal Aviation Administration's budget through 2015 — encourages the acceleration of unmanned aircraft programs in U.S. airspace. Drones have taken on a large role in military operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. The new legislation could make the technology more prevalent in several arenas, from local police departments to farmers monitoring crops. What exactly are drones, how are they used — now and potentially — and do they threaten people's rights to free speech and privacy?