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Larry Abramson | NPR

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A homemade drone over Cesar Chavez Park in Berkeley, Calif. Hobbyists and commercial manufacturers are anticipating new rules governing their domestic use.

Drones transformed the battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan. But their use has been extremely limited in U.S. skies. The Federal Aviation Administration essentially bans the commercial use of drones, and government use is still highly restricted.But that’s changing.

For a long time, drones, which are formally known as unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, were exotic, expensive and out of reach for all but military users. Today, however, a clever hobbyist can have his own eye in the sky.

That’s the case for Andreas Oesterer and Mark Harrison. On a recent weekend, the two hobbyists are flying their collection of hi-tech toys over Cesar Chavez Park in Berkeley, Calif.

With a little push, a homemade UAV takes off into the sky. The fixed-wing plane they’ve launched is definitely unarmed. In fact, it looks like a simple remote-control plane you might find at RadioShack.

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Neal Conan | NPR

July 9, 2012

Drones are a divisive issue among Yemenis. Some support the U.S. and Yemeni governments’ efforts to target militant groups. Others complain that the drone strikes kill too many civilians and remain distrustful of the Yemeni government and the U.S. NPR’s Kelly McEvers talks about the consequences.

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NEAL CONAN, HOST:

Last month, President Obama acknowledged that the United States takes direct action to fight militant groups in Yemen. Groups aligned with al-Qaida control parts of that country and have launched attacks against the United States. The country is also desperately poor. NPR foreign correspondent Kelly McEvers was one of two Western journalists allowed exclusive access to battlegrounds in Southern Yemen. She has reported some powerful stories from that region, including one you may remember from ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, where she met a group of children whose father and brother died in an air strike.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED AUDIO)

KELLY MCEVERS, BYLINE: Nine, 10, 11, 12, 13. Thirteen children. One of the boys was there when the strike hit. He says he and his father and brother were grazing camels in an area known to be controlled by al-Qaida. Night fell. Then came the strikes.

AZZEDINE: (Speaking foreign language)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: He said he did not move until the morning. And then when he woke up, he was kind of scared. He went to see his father and his brother. He saw them scattered into pieces.

MCEVERS: The boy says his father fought in Afghanistan in the 1980s, with men who later join al-Qaida. The family says the father recently renounced his ties with the group. Either way, his sons now have one thing in mind.

AZZEDINE: (Speaking foreign language)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: He said his feeling is only to take revenge for his father.

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Ari Shapiro | NPR

President Obama’s use of drones, and his direct involvement in whom they target, has both U.S. and international communities questioning the administration’s secret drone policy.

The Obama administration’s use of drones to kill suspected terrorists in foreign countries may be President Obama’s biggest legacy in the fight against terrorism.

One privilege — or burden — of the Oval Office is that each inhabitant gets to decide how dirty to get his hands in wartime. President Truman made the ultimate decision to use the atomic bomb, while President Kennedy chose not to use a nuclear weapon in the Cuban Missile Crisis.

“I think every head of government will make the decision as to who will or will not exercise targeting authority,” says Gary Solis of Georgetown University, an expert in the law of war.

Although the CIA program is still classified, many published accounts say Obama has decided to take personal responsibility for making decisions about whom drones will target and kill.

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