How Drones Assist Police Operations

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How Drones Assist Police Operations S

(PoliceOne.com)While Un-Manned Aerial Systems (UAS) in law enforcement applications are often compared to helicopters, there is a world of difference between the two. A helicopter is a multi-million-dollar purchase, costs hundreds of dollars an hour to operate, and requires at least one commercial pilot with years of expensive training. They have much more capability, as they can carry a lot more gear and travel hundreds of miles (beyond visual line of sight), where the payload on a UAS is typically limited to a few pounds and cannot be operated beyond the pilot’s visual line of sight.

While UAS aren’t meant to replace helicopters, these limitations don’t undercut the utility of a police UAS. There are many law enforcement situations where just being able to see the situation from a high vantage point is huge.

UAS have been used to help locate lost children and seniors who have wondered from their homes. Crime scenes and accident investigation sites are another area where UAS are useful. A UAS can map a crime scene much faster and probably more accurately than a human on the ground can. The UAS may reveal evidence that is invisible to those on the ground because of terrain features or other obstructions. The UAS may also be able to fly in weather conditions that would ground conventional aircraft.

In a Florida case, a fugitive tried to hide in a swamp. A thermal camera mounted on a UAS revealed the suspect’s hidden location, as well as that of some other swamp-dwellers. The cops were able to tell him over a PA system, “Come to us, or four alligators are coming to you.” The suspect took the first option.

During a protest in Richmond, Virginia, an overhead UAS was flown to prevent any conflict between pedestrians and vehicles, and assisted the police to successfully direct motor officers to stop traffic before it got intermeshed with the protesters.

After the Santa Rosa (CA) wildfire, a UAS recorded this spectacular 360° high-resolution photo of the damage.

Charles Werner of the National Council on Public Safety UAS recounted a deployment by a California sheriff’s office during the raid of a drug house: “Search warrants were issued and the UAS was flying overhead maintaining an overwatch when the deputies made entry, and could see all sides of the house. It saw and recorded people coming out of windows, drugs thrown into the bushes, and guns thrown onto the roof. The suspects were a block away and thought they were home free when units rolled up and arrested them.”