Tip of the spear: Army to build airport expressly for drones

Tip of the spear: Army to build airport expressly for drones
Calling card.

It didn’t arrive in time for Christmas, but a $33-million drone airport is in the U.S. Army’s bag of goodies.

“The Army’s ever-growing use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) has gotten to the point where two of the most commonly used types are getting their own airport,” DefenseSystems.com reported this month.

The Corps of Engineers at Fort Worth, Texas, awarded a contract to SGS to build a 150-acre unmanned aircraft launch and recovery complex at Fort Bliss for Gray Eagle and Shadow UAS.

The facility will include a 50,000-square-foot unmanned aircraft maintenance hangar and more than a mile of runways, aprons and taxiways, according to SGS.

John Whitehead, president of the civil libertarian Rutherford Institute, is neither shocked nor awed. “Drones are here to stay, and they will be at every airport,” he says.

In an interview with this reporter, Whitehead pointed out that drone technology is driven by defense contractors – notably Northrop Grumman and Lockheed – and the line between military and civilian use is blurring quickly. Said Whitehead:

If there’s a mass protest, do you really think that military won’t help? With the militarization of police, you can’t distinguish between cop on the street and a soldier in Afghanistan. We’re heading toward a ‘Terminator Society.’

The Army’s 25-year plan for unmanned drones calls for steady expansion of the fleet. The service’s drones – which have been borrowed on occasion by local law-enforcement agencies – can operate for up to 36 hours at altitudes of 25,000 feet.

Facial recognition software already can pinpoint individuals at 20,000 feet. And contrary to assurances from Washington, the New York Police Department is discussing the use of armed drones, Whitehead said. He added:

One-hundred police departments and the Department of Homeland Security are cooperating with department stores.

In a sci-fi scenario that he believes is more science than fiction, Whitehead foresees android technology transitioning from foreign battlefields to America’s neighborhoods. In that context, a $33 million Army drone facility in Texas will seem both prosaic, and a key piece to a widening police state.

“The future is a robotic creature walking the beat. It will be a 350-pound, 6-foot-2 android arriving with drones that know what you’ve been doing,” predicted the author of the 2013 book, “A Government of Wolves.”

Read more by Kenric Ward at Watchdog.com.

Kenric Ward

Kenric Ward

Kenric Ward is a national correspondent and writes for the Texas Bureau of Watchdog.org. Formerly a reporter and editor at two Pulitzer Prize-winning newspapers, Kenric has won dozens of state and national news awards for investigative articles. His most recent book is “Saints in Babylon: Mormons and Las Vegas.”

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