In spite of the fears that people may have about drones being used to spy on people, drones are one of the best applications of drone technology. Drones are a tool like any other, and law enforcement is often on the forefront of implementing those tools before the public is.
Drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), are aircraft that fly without a pilot on board and vary in size and capabilities—from high-tech military drones all the way down to the remote-controlled toys. Although drones are fairly new technology, the military has been using drones for years in combat and surveillance operations.
Most people are grateful that drones can be used to capture terrorists and identify locations of criminals and bring to light options that may be available when criminals are holding hostages. In fact, drones used by police can also shoot, if the need arises.
This is obviously happening. It wasn’t long after camera-laden drones hit the market for paparazzi to realize that they’re the perfect tool for spying on celebrities.
Probably one of the biggest fears people have about a drone-filled future is what that could mean for our privacy. A big part of the U.S. military’s drone use is dedicated to high altitude surveillance. From private detectives to police forces, drone surveillance has on the rise across the nation in recent years.
Now we have digital cameras mounted to drones that relentlessly scour the skies around our cities in the name of maintaining law and order.
Police forces must apply for the proper permits or warrants before deploying drones to watch citizens, but they are typically used to monitor areas for illegal drug transactions, conduct chases, or even help with crime scene reconstruction.
Unmanned aerial vehicles fitted with optical, zoom and/or thermal cameras are most appealing to law enforcement agencies. This makes perfect sense, as surveillance or approved footage requires a clear image of any law allegedly being broken for it to be used as evidence.
The following are some of the many uses of drones in law enforcement:
- Perform routine security sweeps at large, crowded events.
- Rescue missing persons at night or in burning buildings.
- Provide employee escorts to their vehicles at night.
- Provide full-time surveillance of parking lots and structures.
- Keep an eye on demonstrations and demonstrators.
- Control crowds.
- Search and rescue.
- Traffic collision analysis.
- Hostage negotiations.
- Bomb investigations.
- Criminal surveillance.
- Crime scene analysis.
- Monitoring and inspecting prisons and prisoners.
- Monitoring and apprehending illegal aliens at borders.
Drones, in general, are highly appealing to the police because UAVs can reach places that your local police officer can’t. That can range from a place too high to climb or a position simply too dangerous for an officer to put himself or herself in. In addition, drones can capture footage for days, provided the storage capacity of the drive is large enough. That can allow law enforcement to tend to other things, while the drone takes care of recording a clear image of any law allegedly being broken which is valuable footage that can be used as evidence in a court of law.
As departments look to increase effectiveness and efficiency while cutting costs, it is not surprising that they are increasingly looking to UAVs as the answer.
Crime is the bane of any society, but crime-fighting, primarily investigation, is improving with drones. Forces across the world are using them to gain intelligence on potential leads and threats.
Privacy concerns are a growing threat to the unmitigated explosion in drone use in our country. The majority of Americans oppose the use of drones for issuing traffic tickets, even though law enforcement agencies want to use them to crack down on law-breaking drivers.
Because police departments and the FBI are increasingly using drones for surveillance and related activity, therefore, Fourth Amendment concerns are a hot topic among civil liberties advocates like the ACLU. Therefore, good drone policies can ensure that both law enforcement agencies and civilians use drones responsibly.
Private citizen privacy may well be threatened so the question we must ask is where to draw the line?
With the increased use of drones both by civilians and government agencies, it’s essential for every police department to craft effective law enforcement drone policy.
Because drone technology is evolving at such a rapid speed, it is difficult to imagine to what extent drones will influence public safety in the future. The balance between freedom and safety is a delicate one, and should not be ignored or underestimated.
Hopefully we will be able to strike the right balance.