From the piece:
But what appears, on one level, to be a sensible, practical, and affordable solution for local law enforcement – the price tag for a small UAV is about the cost of a tricked-out new police cruiser at $50,000 – has run smack into public concerns about yet another high-tech invasion of privacy and the popular image of drones as stealthy weapons used against terrorists.
Nonetheless, the technology's potential benefits in pursuing a raft of public safety measures at relatively low cost have enormous appeal for law enforcement agencies across the country, since President Obamasigned a bill last year directing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to further open US airspace to drones for both public and private use.
Even before that, the number of permits, known as certificates of authorization (COAs), that the FAA issued to organizations to fly UAVs more than doubled from 146 in 2009 to 313 in 2011. As of February 2013 there were 327 active COAs.