Officials at the University of Alabama in Huntsville unveil a new plan to use remote-controlled unmanned aerial vehicles to provide an "eye in the sky" for police to monitor students on campus.
The plan was divulged at a press conference at the university on May 8. Gary Maddux, the lead research director of Systems Management and Productions Center, said the aircraft could help stop a mass murder on campus.
He cited the shooting at a Connecticut elementary school as the catalyst pushing the research into overdrive.
On December 14, 2012, twenty children and six adults were fatally shot by a gunman - who later killed himself - at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown in the US state of Connecticut. Earlier in the day, the assailant had killed his mother in another location.
Maddux said the technology used in the remote-controlled surveillance devices is not as advanced as controversial military drones, and they fly at a lower altitude.
He added the UAVs would be capable of using small spotlights, or infrared cameras in addition to video cameras.
Maddux did not explain how the surveillance aircraft will prevent criminal activity or improve campus police response time.
Thousands of unmanned aerial vehicles could be buzzing US airspace by 2015 because of the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) Modernization and Reform Act passed last year. The law requires the FAA to fully integrate unmanned aircraft into the National Airspace System by September 2015.
Additionally, it allows law enforcement agencies, including local police forces, to buy and use unmanned aircraft for evidence gathering and surveillance.
The law has however raised safety and privacy concerns among some lawmakers and advocacy groups.
Moreover, Washington uses assassination drones in several countries, claiming that they target “terrorists.” According to witnesses, however, the attacks have mostly led to massive civilian casualties.
US officials refuse to publicly discuss any details of the covert program and the death toll from drone strikes remains a mystery.