Nightly News | February 11, 2012
>>> drones have become a familiar tool in u.s. missions overseas. we have heard a lot about those remotely controlled eyes in the sky over the middle east . now some police departments here at home are adding drones to their arsenals. and that's raising eyebrows among privacy advocates. we get our report tonight in nbc's charles headlock.
>> reporter: we have seen them in action in iraq, afghanistan and pakistan. unmanned american drones are the high-tech fixtures of modern military warfare. and now, their surveillance technology is about to be used in a whole new way at home. miami-dade police are among the first to test this new breed of aircraft.
>> like a rocket.
>> reporter: a uav, an unmanned aerial vehicle with some of the same technology as military drones, but much smaller and lighter.
>> has no weapon, it's not capable of any offensive or defensive. it's just a camera. it's a flying camera.
>> reporter: companies that make the uavs claim they can be used in a manhunt. or in a standoff or hostage situation.
>> it gives them that ability to deploy something quickly in less than five minutes as opposed to a full-sized aircraft.
>> reporter: to know what to expect.
>> this gives us realtime data to make decisions.
>> reporter: the sheriff's department used federal homeland security money to buy a $300,000 helicopter drone. small enough to fit on a table.
>> it's so simple in its design and the objectives of it, you just wonder why anyone would choose not to have it.
>> reporter: police helicopters have been flying around major cities for years. but critics say the prospect of unmanned drones with cameras peering into backyards and following people may be going too far.
>> i think that there are an opportunity for fishing expeditions.
>> reporter: terry burke with the american civil liberties union of texas say police drones may have a legitimate law enforcement purpose, but fears they'll be too easy to misuse.
>> in an era where we have warrant warrantless searches and privately intrusion, the drones are an excuse to trample on the constitution.
>> reporter: right now only a handful of cities have plans to use unmanned drones. but manufacturers expect business to take off later this year. when the faa issues guidelines on when, how and where these eyes in the sky can fly.