And this is the first objection to the use of drones domestically: They are weapons of war! About to be deployed here at home! Not exactly. We don’t kill people with drones; we kill them with Hellfire missiles. The drone is just the platform. By this standard, we would have no police helicopters because helicopters are weapons of war. For that matter, by this standard police shouldn’t be allowed to carry firearms, which are a weapon of war going back a couple of centuries.
As for police drones randomly watching us as we innocently go about our business, this is not a novel phenomenon. Police do it all the time. It is called a patrol. They do it utilizing all manner of technology — on foot, on horseback, on bikes, in cars, and even on Segway scooters. So long as they are looking at us in public areas where we have no reasonable expectation of privacy, our liberty survives intact.
Drones will no doubt raise novel issues under the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure. They will require rules. The same is true of any technology, of course. The Supreme Court held unanimously earlier this year that police can’t attach a GPS tracker on someone’s vehicle without a warrant. This isn’t reason to ban all use of GPS trackers by law enforcement. The fear of drones is, in part, the fear of the new — it is Luddism masquerading as civil libertarianism.