Wild west maybe but if it saves lives………

Drones are increasingly making their mark in the arsenal of US police forces, operating in a legal gray area and sparking concerns of constant surveillance of civilians.

The specter of armed drones surfaced with a law passed in North Dakota last month that allows police to equip the aircraft with teargas.

“It’s still a bit of a Wild West,” said American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) policy analyst Jay Stanley.

Since 2012, government agencies can use small drones — weighing less than 55 pounds, or 25 kilograms — under certain conditions and after obtaining a certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration.

But the FAA, which is preparing small drone regulations, does not have authority on privacy protection and there is no specific framework on the issue on a national level.

Up to two dozen police forces are currently fully equipped with drones and trained to use them, including pioneers Grand Forks in North Dakota; Arlington, Texas; Mesa County, Colorado and the Utah Highway Patrol.

According to the digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation, at least 60 police forces across the country — from Houston, Texas, to Mobile, Alabama, North Little Rock, Arkansas, and Miami-Dade County — have asked for drone certification.

The FBI also uses drones for specific missions.

Through the drones, law enforcement gets a bird’s eye view of accident and crime scenes, can search for suspects or missing people and obtain tactical information when, for example, a dangerous suspect has barricaded himself.