A Monmouth University poll released Thursday suggests 3 in 4 Americans feel that law enforcement agencies should be required to obtain a warrant from a judge before using drones.
"Support for the use of law enforcement drones in U.S. airspace has not changed in the past year, but this new poll shows there are significant caveats. For one, the public overwhelmingly supports judicial oversight before drones are employed," said Patrick Murray, director of the New Jersey-based Monmouth University Polling Institute, in a released statement.
The poll finds that 69 percent of Americans would feel their privacy was threatened if law enforcement began using drones armed with high tech cameras and recording equipment.
The Associated Press reported the FAA has approved more than 1,400 requests for drone use from government agencies and academic institutions for research and public safety since 2006. However, there may be roughly 7,500 drones operating domestically within the next few years.
The Federal Aviation Administration's 2012 Modernization and Reform Act states that drones must be integrated into the national airspace system by Sept. 30, 2015. Earlier this year, the Electronic Frontier Foundation obtained a list of 81 organizations that had applied for drone licenses with the FAA.
"Right now police can't come into your house without a search warrant," Ohio Rep. Rex Damschroder, told the Associated Press. "But with drones, they can come right over your backyard and take pictures."
Damschroder has proposed legislation in Ohio that would require law enforcement to obtain a warrant before using drones on civilians. The law would accept situations in which the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security determines drone use could prevent a terrorist attack and if there is "reasonable suspicion" that drones will prevent "imminent harm."
Despite concern over warrantless law enforcement use, the poll shows a majority of Americans support the use of unarmed drones. Though only twenty-one percent of respondents opposed the use of drones to issue speeding tickets, 83 percent supported drone use in search and rescue missions. Just over half supported the use armed drones in hostage situations.
Roughly sixty percent of respondents supported the use of drones in controlling illegal immigration. When asked if they supported the use drones armed with weapons in border patrol, that figure dropped to 44 percent.
However, roughly 2 in 3 Americans said their personal privacy would be threatened if law enforcement agencies began using unmanned drones equipped with high-tech cameras and recording equipment.