Drones Used By Law Enforcement

Using technology to reduce the risk we are exposed to when we investigate various situations is nothing new. Remote controlled vehicles are nothing new. Why, all of a sudden, is there a big push back against law enforcement using "drones?"


DRONE, as defined by dictionary.com:

a. an unmanned aircraft or ship that can navigate autonomously, without human control or beyond line of sight: the GPS of a U.S. spy drone.
b. (loosely) any unmanned aircraft or ship that is guided remotely: a radio-controlled drone.

Read through the definition.  Now read it again.  The ONLY word in there that potentially bothers me is "autonomously" but even that only concerns me IF the "drone" in question is armed.  As a 30+ year veteran of law enforcement work having served at every level including command staff and in executive positions, I can't think of a single instance where I've seen or heard about an armed autonomous remote controlled vehicle.  The very phrase is oxymoronic.  To be autonomous the vehicle would operate without outside/remote control.  So I ask again, why all of a sudden are we in law enforcement getting such a big push back about the use of "drones"?  I'll share what I think and I ask you to share your thoughts in the comment section below.

I've always wanted a "drone."  Actually, I've always wanted a remote controlled helicopter and I thought it would be super-cool to put a miniature video camera or video transmitting device on it.  You see, I can't fly.  God/nature didn't bless me with wings or the ability to disengage myself at will from gravity's pull.  So, if I want to see what I'd see while flying, I'd require a flying vehicle with a camera - hence my desire for a properly equipped remote control helicopter.  And yes, I've even thought it would be cool to put a miniature copy of the Browning M2 machine gun (an M22 in .22lr fed by cloth belt) on the underside and "strafe" targets at the range.  Think about that for a moment:  armed or not, if that helicopter is equipped with any type of surveillance equipment, real time, transmitting or otherwise, it's a "drone."  But would citizens be in a panic about law enforcement having a few?  Maybe.  I bet it would depend on the use as delineated by protocol and standard operating procedure.  Here are a few examples of how "drones" can be or are used by law enforcement and be of benefit.

Border security: One drone and a few qualified operators can patrol plenty of border while spending few resources.  If the drone "sees" something suspicious, THEN a human patrol can be sent out or coordinated.  This use of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or an unmanned remote control vehicle (URCV on the ground) can minimize unnecessary wear-and-tear on patrol vehicles as well as mitigate risk for patrol personnel.

Bomb eetection: How many SWAT teams and/or bomb teams have remote controlled "robots" that they use to enter and assess high risk environments?  PLENTY.  Oddly, the common URCV used by law enforcement is called a "robot," which would imply autonomous function on the part of the unit.  That's not accurate.  URCVs ARE drones - they just don't fly. They operate on the ground.  How many of them are armed? Many can be.  How much public complaint has been heard about them? Zero.  Why?  We'll get to that...

Search & rescue: A drone equipped with infra-red radar units and video transmitting capabilities could be (and is?) a fantastic benefit to law enforcement when it comes to searching for lost people in hazardous terrain, low light conditions or heavily wooded areas.  Think about how much cheaper it is to fly a drone for hours upon hours, crisscrossing a search grid as compared to flying a helicopter or plane for that same amount of time.  Further, if the drone is properly equipped it could be used to deliver emergency supplies to lost/stranded people until rescue personnel can get to them.

Risk assessment: After a disaster, fire, hurricane, etc. it's not always easy to access certain areas to assess the risk of sending in personnel or equipment.  A drone can be used relatively quickly and easily to get a visual assessment completed.

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