Since last July, hundreds of ordinary citizens have helped MuckRock and the Electronic Frontier Foundation tirelessly file records requests to map the deployment of drones across the country. The 2012 Drone Census has uncovered unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in use or development at dozens of government agencies, which range from universities and environmental regulators to national guard units and police departments. As MuckRock prepares to close the 2012 installment of this project, users have a last opportunity to raise the bar even higher for the 2013 Drone Census.
Over the past seven months, MuckRock has submitted records requests to 280 government agencies. Nearly 200 of these agency leads were submitted by MuckRock users curious about the use of UAVs by their local public bodies. These user-generated leads helped MuckRock unearth inquiries into drone technology by a number of agencies that weren’t on the lists of UAV certifications provided by the Federal Aviation Administration, including the San Diego County Sheriff (request submitted by user Jason Collins) and the Austin Police Department (request submitted by user Tom Harris). With our users’ help, MuckRock and EFF have shed light not only on which agencies have or are seeking drones, but also how these units are being used and what policies are being put in place to govern their deployment.
MuckRock will close the inaugural round of Drone Census requests on January 31. Even if we stopped filing today, the Drone Census would be an unprecedented project in its scope and sheer number of document requests submitted. We never imagined such staggering support. But rather than rest on our accomplishment, we’re issuing a challenge to our users: help the 2012 Drone Census reach 350 queried agencies by the end of the month.