The White House for the first time Monday confirmed what has been widely known for years: that our military is using predator drone airstrikes to destroy targets in Afghanistan and Yemen.
The Obama administration’s top counterterrorism official John Brennan says armed drones are necessary to prevent terrorist attacks in the U.S.
Soon, the remotely-controlled flying machines will be shifted to more domestic uses.
"If I can keep people of harm's way by using technology, then that's the way I want to do it,” says Mark Brady of the Prince George's County Fire and EMS Department.
By 2015, the FAA plans to green light the use of small, remotely-piloted aircraft for civilian purposes as long as they don't interfere with commercial and military aircraft.
Police agencies say they can envision using unmanned aerial vehicles.
"Just from the standpoint of an alternative to spotting traffic and sending information back to our VDOT Smart Traffic Centers," says Fairfax County Police Chief David Rohrer. "And being able to observe backups and changed lights and everything else. There's certainly going to be a reason I think for drones in the future."
Whether it’s to help authorities fight forest fires, deal with hazardous situations or guide first responders through widespread flooding.
"If you look at unmanned systems as just being a commodity that allows that operator to do his or her job better," says Michael Toscano, President and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International based in Arlington, Va. "It's an extension of their eyes and their ears in many cases."
Some in Congress are concerned about law enforcement violating individual’s privacy.
"The potential for invasive surveillance of daily activities with drone technology is high," wrote Massachusetts Congressman Edward Markey in a letter to the FAA. "We must ensure that as drones take flight in domestic airspace, they don't take off without privacy protections for those along their flight path."