How United States Police Departments Use Drones

Recently, it became an open secret that police departments in the U.S. are using drones widely in their day-to-day operations. In July last year, Americans became aware of police use of drones after the Dallas police drone bombing of heavily armed suspects who refused to surrender. This created uneasiness public doubts and suspicions on police use of drones and ethics. How then are the police departments using these aerial vehicles?

Military Drone

Military Armed Drone / Photo by: meesh

  • What are Drones?

They are simply aircraft or aerial vehicles, which are not passenger occupied or piloted by humans. There are two types of drones. The Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems (RPAS). However, the term commonly used is drones. Drones are used in occasions, situations or places where it is considered too risky for human occupation. Because of that police have an enormous interest in using drones in police work.

The U.S. Police Departments, according to an interview with the Former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, United States has approximately 18,000 police departments. At least 347 of these departments and agencies are flying drones by 2017. They have found significant use of them.

  • Public Safety Acquisition

Law enforcement department and agencies in the US have been using drones for almost a decade, but it was only last year that they became more popular. According to a report done by Daily Herald on April 15, 2017, Texas, California, Alabama, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania led the public safety accusations of drones. Most of these states had at least one drone operated by law enforcement departments and agencies. These include the police, sheriffs, emergency response units and fire departments.

  • Scenarios where Drones are Mostly Used

Law enforcement departments and agencies have found good use of these tools to manage traffic. They are also being used to respond to emergencies like fire by having aerial views of fire scenes and tracking fire brigades in hazardous operations. Drones have also come in handy in these departments in search and rescue missions as well as delivering medical supplies to inaccessible regions. They are also used to photograph crime scenes.

  • Drone Surveillance

There does exist public fear in most states over drone use for surveillance. The fear mostly revolves around privacy invasion. The public, however, needs not to get paranoid as laws are coming up in almost all states governing drones use.

  • Armed Drones

The armed drone used in Dallas was the first to be publicly registered as used by police by July last year. Although it is creating a public discontent, in Connecticut, legislatures are of the opinion that police should be opted to use weaponized drones.

  • Need For Laws To Fly Drones

With the rise of drones technology flying the globe, some states have found the need to come up with laws governing drones operations. Hampshire, California, and Texas are some of the states that are already having laws governing flying of drones. Among these laws are:

  1. Do not harass hunters in Hampshire
  2. Drones cannot be flown anywhere near the State Capital in Texas.

According to The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems Internationals, at least 6 states have passed a bill that prohibits commercial use of drones.


Virginia Police Drone / Photo by: Mike Licht

In Conclusion

Drones acquisitions are expected to rise in a few coming years. Law enforcers have experience easier times with drones in delivering services and saving lives. There is high regard of drone technology, and more uses for drones are expected to arise in the near future.

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