Instead of dispatching an officer each time, several Colorado police departments may soon dispatch a drone to respond to certain 911 calls. While the proposal has promise, it also raises uncomfortable questions about privacy.

As Shelly Bradbury reported this week in The Denver Post, “A handful of local law enforcement agencies are considering using drones as first respondersthat is, sending them in response to 911 callsas police departments across Colorado continue to widely embrace the use of the remote-controlled flying machines.”

Bradbury quotes Arapahoe County Sheriff Jeremiah Gates saying, “This really is the future of law enforcement at some point, whether we like it or not.” She notes that while there are currently no official plans in place, “Gates envisions a world where a drone is dispatched to a call about a broken traffic light or a suspicious vehicle instead of a sheriff’s deputy, allowing actual deputies to prioritize more pressing calls for help.”

The Denver Police Departmentwhose then-chief in 2013called the use of drones by police “controversial” and said that “constitutionally there are a lot of unanswered questions about how they can be used”is also starting a program, buying several drones over the next year that can eventually function as first responders.

In addition to Denver and Arapahoe County, Bradbury lists numerous Colorado law enforcement agencies that also have drone programs, including the Colorado State Patrol, which has 24 drones, and the Commerce City Police Department, which has eight drones and 12 pilots for a city of around 62,000 people and plans to begin using them for 911 response within a year.

In addition to helping stem the number of calls an officer must respond to in person, some law enforcement agencies see this as a means of saving money. One Commerce City police official told The Denver Post that “what we see out of it is, it’s a lot cheaper than an officer, basically.” And Denver intends for its program to make up for an $8.4 million cut to the police budget this year.

On one hand, there is certainly merit to such a proposal: Unless they’re of the Predator variety, drones are much less likely than officers to kill or maim innocent civiliansor their dogs. And as Gates noted, drones could take some of the busywork out of policing by taking some of the more mundane tasks off an officer’s plate.

But it also raises privacy concerns to farm out too much police work to unmanned surveillance aircraft.

“Sending out a drone for any time there is a 911 call, it could be dangerous and lead to more over-policing of communities of color,” Laura Moraff, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Unionof Colorado, told The Denver Post. “There is also just the risk that the more that we normalize having drones in the skies, the more it can really affect behavior on a massive scale, if we are just looking up and seeing drones all over the place, knowing that police are watching us.”

Indeed, while this sort of dystopic panopticon would certainly make life easier for officers day to day, it would signal the further erosion of the average Coloradan’s Fourth Amendment rights.

In Michigan, for example, police hired a drone pilot to take pictures of a person’s property rather than go to the trouble of getting a warrant. Earlier this month, the state supreme court upheld the search, ruling that since the purpose was for civil code enforcement and not a criminal violation, it didn’t matter whether the search violated the Fourth Amendment.

Thankfully, there are some positive developments on that front: In March, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled against state troopers who flew a plane over a suspect’s house and took pictures with a high-powered zoom lens to see if he was growing marijuana.

“The fact that a random person might catch a glimpse of your yard while flying from one place to another does not make it reasonable for law enforcement officials to take to the skies and train high-powered optics on the private space right outside your home without a warrant,” the court found. “Unregulated aerial surveillance of the home with high-powered optics is the kind of police practice that is ‘inconsistent with the aims of a free and open society.'”