HazMat scenarios: I clearly remember helping to evacuate several square miles around an overturned propane truck on the Washington DC Beltway back in 1986. A state trooper had to risk his life for quite some time as he used a pair of binoculars to get a look at the truck, the HazMat placard and the overall situation. A properly equipped drone could have gotten a lot better look while the operator stayed at a much safer distance.
Those are just a few examples. My point is that drones are just that: drones. They are remotely controlled vehicles whether they are on the ground or in the air, and there is always a person operating them. That person - that someone - is held accountable, just as if he (or she) was driving a car.
So, why the sudden outrage? Yes, I'm going to blame mainstream media combined with a public all too willing to accept whatever they're spoon-fed and not think about it past what the talking head on television says. It doesn't help that social media is exploding with paranoid conspiracy theories about what "the government" will do with all those drones. Let me ask you this, just to illustrate my point: When you read "drone" what do you picture in your head?
The most used image is of a Predator drone, owned and operated by the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force. It's a military drone used to gather intelligence, take pictures, find terrorists, etc. Yes, it's been used to deliver explosives on military targets. If THAT is the image you see when you read "drone" then no wonder people are freaking out about domestic law enforcement having such. We simply don't need it.
We, in law enforcement, are fighting a public relations battle... again. It's nothing new to us. The media on television, social media outlets and in the movies have shown time and time again what a drone looks like and how it can be used. Have you seen "The Bourne Legacy"? A drone is used to target and blow up a cabin in the woods. There's an image that makes citizens feel nice and warm and fuzzy when they imagine the government owning the drone (which it does in the movie) and the cabin holding two citizens. Can you say "execution?" "assassination?" THAT is what the public is being fed. THAT is the image we have to offset.
It is now, once again thanks to the mainstream media, part of our job to educate the public about the UAVs and URCVs that we use, how we use them and why. In reality drones can help save lives, minimize risks, and cut overhead costs. We regularly use these tools to perform our jobs more efficiently, and THAT is what we need to explain to the public we serve.