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Police departments debate use of drone technology

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police using drones

Advanced drone technology is becoming increasingly ubiquitous but no less controversial.Some people genuinely fear a future in which the sky is filled with drones zipping around – many out of privacy concerns and others out of safety concerns. After all, who wants to look out of a bathroom mirror and see a camera-equipped drone hovering outside?Drone use for package delivery or as a hobbyist pastime is not as controversial a usage as police using drones.But that’s exactly the debate being held across the country right now, with the Los Angeles Police Department and Seattle Police Departments at the forefront of the discussion.

For years, the LAPD did not use a pair of drones given to them as a donation, and any type of experiment with drone technology has met with stiff resistance from the public.

Seattle’s flirtation with drone technology was killed off by public outcry in its planning stages. The public is wary of drones in the consumer sector, let alone in the hands of government, it seems.The technology could have widespread use in police applications, however, so it might be premature to dismiss it entirely out of fear.

police using drones

The LAPD’s announcement of a one-year pilot program back in August 2017 outlined the various uses the police department would explore. For example, the department cited drone use in finding missing persons.

In a plan presented by the LAPD, the program will make use of small drones measuring a foot in length and seven and a half inches in height in situations including hostage negotiations, bomb threats, or in active-shooter scenarios. The main purpose of the drones would be in information gathering and keeping officers out of harm’s way.

There would be a set of strict criteria that officers would need to follow prior to deploying a drone, an action that would ultimately require the approval of a superior officer. Each deployment would be accompanied by a length and thorough paper trail so that everything concerned with the drone’s use would be aboveboard.

Any program initiated by the LAPD will have to comply with FAA regulations concerning unmanned aerial systems. Throughout the one-year trial program the LAPD hopes to keep civic groups involved in the discussion around the department’s drone use in the field.

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