Do we mind military planes watching us, if it’s just for training?

Col. Chuck Dorsey, the vice wing commander with New York’s Air National Guard 174th Fighter Wing, gave a fascinating presentation at yesterday’s Park Agency meeting in Ray Brook.

He unveiled a plan to begin flying MQ-9 Reaper drones over the Adirondack Park.

(Dorsey prefers the term “remote-piloted” to “unmanned,” given the fact that the planes will be crewed by trained aviators in Syracuse.)

One interesting bit is that the MQ-9s will be watching random Adirondackers, as a way for pilots and intelligence-gatherers to hone their skills.

“We pick the third house on the right past the blue silo and begin working there,” Col. Dorsey said, pointing out that the “targets” are always chosen randomly.  (Targeting of specific civilians by these flights would be illegal.)

“One thing that’s particular difficult training and very useful training is to pick the next car that drives north across the Black River out of Castorland and track that vehicle as it makes turns and goes underneath trees and behind barns and things like that and see where that thing ends up.”

APA Commissioner Lani Ulrich asked whether people will know that they’re being watched by circling MQ-9s.  “Are you far enough up that the third car is aware of being followed?”

Col. Dorsey said it’s unlikely that people will know that they’re being used as a practice bogey. All flights initially will be conducted above 18,000 feet. (The Air Guard hopes to eventually be allowed to fly low altitude practice runs down to around 5,000 feet.)

He also points out that similar training surveillance runs have been performed for years, using clumsier F-16 fighters. The MQ-9s are simply more efficient, able to stay aloft for up to 20 hours at a time.

So what do you think? A normal part of life given that we Adirondackers neighbor a large military base? A small contribution that we can make to help train pilots during a time of war?

Or does this raise concerns about privacy? Comments welcome.

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23 Comments on “Do we mind military planes watching us, if it’s just for training?”

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  1. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Maybe we can use this to our advantage. Advertise the new Adirondack Adventure Weekend. Tourists can come to the Adirondacks be deprived of cell phone contact with the outside world and be hunted by the all seeing eye in the sky.

  2. Mervel says:

    Or the deal would be that they have to let area residents drive one for a couple of hours each month which would be pretty cool.

  3. Bret4207 says:

    Since I have nothing to hide, lead an exceptionally boring life and am very much in favor of doing anything we can to gain an advantage over the enemy and to save our people from harm, I have zero problems with this as reported.

  4. phahn50 says:

    My only concern would be that if they are practicing, they make sure that there is someone who knows what they are doing standing by. Dont want any Uh Oh moments.

  5. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    It would be pretty cool to take turns flying the thing. And spying on what your neighbor has been doing behind that high fence or back in the woods. Do they get to shoot at us every once in a while just to make it exciting?

  6. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Oooh! Ooo-ooo! Scouting for deer and turkey!

    Watching Brian Mann and Phil Brown trespass in their kayaks. This thing would be AWESOME if we could use it.

    UFO’s in Hamilton County? Now we know.

  7. Pete Klein says:

    Not a problem unless they work with the State Police to conduct speed traps or shoot videos of people skinny dipping.

  8. newt says:

    Sure, and next thing you know come huntin’ season, there’ll be some damn warden comin’ up on your camp, and sayin, “Hey Bobby, you know the Air Force didn’t see no horns on that deer you dragged in yesterday. Let’s take a look!”

  9. john stafford says:

    I have a big problem with fighting a war via remort control. The ultimate wepon of terror. The air national guard already use their people and planes to snoop for marajuana in the fall and I don’t like this escalation. The Adirondacks should be a no fly zone!

  10. Marty says:

    If I’m allowed to snap photos of the drones and potentially collect a bounty for the photos I’ve got nothing against it. Of course, if I start getting followed by drones, I’m going to get concerned.

    But maybe we could finally get an answer to the immortal question about bears and the woods.

  11. Dave C says:

    Will they be reporting to local authorities if I burn the same small 6×6 brush pile that have on occasion…you know, just because they thought it might get out of hand?

  12. Peter says:

    visitors from outside the area will be asking “Why are all the locals walking around giving ‘the finger’ to the sky?”.

  13. Solidago says:

    I’ll admit it – the prospect of a virtually silent and invisible aircraft called “The Reaper” – which I usually only hear about when terrorists mysteriously blow up in a country the US isn’t supposed to be in – following me around the woods, kind of creeps me out in a way that an A-10 doesn’t!

  14. mary says:

    They will probably be used by police in 5 to 10 years — that has been recently reported. By then, they will be more interested in the bigger cities and less interested in the adirondacks.

    The police patrol with helicopters with night scopes in Baltimore, MD. No complaining is going to stop that.

    People just get used to it.

  15. Walker says:

    I really don’t mind, as long as the air isn’t full of them. If they want a shot of me skinny dipping, they’re welcome to it!

    But the Enterprise story on this included this quote: “…it’s “very unlikely” that the planes will be armed when they’re flying training missions over the Adirondacks.”

    Now why isn’t that simply “they WON’T be armed”? What possible need could they have of carrying live ammo in these exercises?

  16. Peter says:

    I must admit, the USAF-supplied photos of fully armed drones on the front page of the Enterprise were a little disconcerting…

    But in my opinion, wouldn’t it be of just as much training use, and serve an additional benefit, if the drone pilot training were to take place mainly in the regions just this side of the northern border? I know the Border Patrol uses them periodically, but if the NYANG did their training in conjunction with the BP…

  17. Strange as it may sound, I’m with Bret on this.

  18. scratchy says:

    This just what we need, someone to watch your every move. A good way to enforce the burn barrel ban, I suppose.

  19. tootightmike says:

    I’m sure these things are no more invasive than the A-10s or F-16s…which is to say, I don’t think they should fly the ever-wild skies at all. Seems like some place could just be silent.

  20. In the Adironacks, we should expect to be treated better by the US Government than the inhabitants of Taliban-linked areas in rural Pakistan. Surely somewhere in New York State there is some area in need of actual surveillance for which the government has actual probable cause? Or perhaps they could practice on US government facilities? This sounds like someone’s idea of a fishing expedition.

    Drones are not a friendly techology. The way you look at someone through a drone is how you look at them when you think it might be OK to bomb them. People who look at you through drones do not mean well.

  21. Joshua says:

    The “unlikely to be armed” statement is extremely disconcerting. There is no rational reason why drones being used in training would ever need to be armed. Unarmed drones would eliminate any possibility of any trainee accidentally firing a weapon.

    Training for the use of remotely piloted vehicles could be better accomplished by the use of computer technology. Programs could be designed to present every kind of imaginable situation and terrain. This has the advantage of being reproducible so many trainees could be tested with the same set of data. This would allow for the systemization of standards for performance. It would also allow for the identification of shortcomings in the training program and the identification of trainees individual weaknesses therefore producing more effective remediation. Item analysis of errors would also serve to improve the curriculum, training techniques, and materials used in training.

    The military already uses this technology in other types of training. Could there be another reason for using drones in the Adirondacks?

  22. Alan Gregory says:

    I’m a retired Air Force public affairs officer (lieutenant colonel) whose career included three years at Plattsburgh Air Force Base int the late 80s. This idea of flying drones over the park is a public affairs officer’s nightmare. The idea of a drone targeting a mountain peak is one thing, but a human such as a hiker? Bad idea. On top of that, I can think if many more community-supportive ways of spending the dollars.

  23. Steve Molnar says:

    I don’t like it. It sounds like”‘Big Brother” to me. It is yet another form of the government spying on its own citizens without a legal basis. This is counter to the ideas of democracy that the military is suppose to protect. I would like to see the Adirondacks free of military flights and the government out of the business of spying on unsuspect citizens without legal court order justification.

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