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New England Patriots drone program a source of mystery and concern

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In 2013, the Onion ran a satirical piece on Patriots drone use. Two short years later, it is real news.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

While the Steelers used Go Pro cameras at their OTAsthe Patriots launched a drone program at their training facility last Friday. Patriots and drones were the subject of a TheOnion.com satire piece several years ago that jokingly showed the Patriots taking out the opposition's offense with a weaponized drone.

While it is probably safe to assume these drones are not weaponized, the Patriots were very vague about their purpose. The Patriots VP of Media Relations Stacey James simply said the drones were part of a "football initiative". Not surprisingly, Bill Belichick was about as transparent as the windows of a 1987 Ford Aerostar after a drive through the desert. (Yeah, I'd have as many questions about that scene as I do about the Patriots new "football initiative.") He responded with a very oblique "I don't know" when asked about the program.

Let's try to break this down into very simple terms and highlight what we know so far:

1) This is a secret drone program.

2) Secret drone programs are normally associated with activities like spying.

3) They say the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, so spying is plausible. (I wonder if there were any strange aircraft in the vicinity of the Steelers practice facility?)

4) Spying is a part of Patriots history

5) So are unmanned planes. At a Jets v. Patriots game in the 70's, a flying lawnmower struck and killed a fan who had been sitting in the stands.

It is probably safe to assume that Patriots drones are not intended to harm people on the ground. On the other hand, Belichick did seem to leave the door open for a new Spygate-style initiative, about which he can later claim ignorance.

Seriously, how hard would it have been for Belichick to have used a few more words and said, "We're using the drones to get better footage of our practices"? Given the Patriots history, drones are not the best topic about which to be cagey.