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Drone surveillance is the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to capture of still images and video to gather information about specific targets, which might be individuals, groups or environments. Drone surveillance enables surreptitiously gathering information about a target as captured from a distance or altitude. Drones’ flight capabilities, small size and ability to withstand harsh environments mean they can often survey subjects that might not be accessible otherwise and can access a first-person view (FPV) that would normally be impossible for the photographer.

Drones combined with computer vision, face recognition, object recognition and other tracking technologies are essentially flying robots. Their naturalization into the environment -- sometimes referred to as ubiquitous robotics -- is enabled by the combination of networking, robotics and artificial intelligence (AI). Advanced AI-capable drones can adapt to their environment and perform many autonomous tasks like following a subject and filming while they move through an area.

For drones under 35Kg, no special permits are required for private citizens. Beyond 35kg, special flight operations certificates are required. Personal drones over that weight are rare, however. For commercial purposes, the Federal Aviation Administration requires a certificate of authorization for drone operation. Other relevant regulations include FAA rules barring flight above 400ft or within two miles of an airport.