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Drones And Law Enforcement

Drones and Law Enforcement: What do these drones feature?

The drones cost a lot less than the usual helicopters they use, that can run between $500,000 and $3-million each.

Drones and Law Enforcement: These police drones have extremely high resolution cameras that produce detailed photographs of small objects, (like a weapon) along with homes, people, and terrain. Police drones can be equipped with heat sensors that can track a person’s movement at night, as well as the day. They can even single out cars on the highway, and read the license plate numbers.

Written by: AJ Keil

DRONES & LAW ENFORCEMENT – Spring break… YAY! … But what happens during spring break? Well a lot, probably a lot more than you want to know about. Every spring nearly 75,000 college students stream into the resort town of South Padre Island, Texas.

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Not to mention a lot of other favorite spots including Daytona Beach, Florida, to celebrate spring break. And… every year local police rescue swimmers in distress, arrest hundreds of partiers for illegal drugs, underage drinking, break up fights, public intoxication, and a whole lot more. It is now time for drones and law enforcement!  

High resolution cameras for police work

In March of 2016 the South Padre Island Police added two Yuneek typhoon Q500 Drones to help maintain security. The drones have high resolution cameras, and batteries so the drones can remain in flight for up to 25-minutes. During spring break the police drones hovered 250-feet above the local beaches. This allowed the officers to keep watch, and act effectively whenever there was trouble.

Gary Ainsworth, the spokesperson for the town of South Padre Island explained it like this… “It gives us a birds-eye view that we wouldn’t have had before. If you have an incident in a large crowd, and you’re sending two officers into the middle of it, they’re vastly outnumbered, and that’s before they have any idea of what’s going on.” Ainsworth also said each drone is equipped to perform rescue missions. The drones could fly out over the water, and drop a life jacket near a drowning person.

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Drones and Law Enforcement: THE DRONE POLICE

Police are adding drones to their fleet at Daytona Beach, Florida. Their police chief  Craig Capri insists they will be used for search and rescue, and emergency management purposes. Spying will not be a part of it, he said. “It’s not to surveil people, It’s to save lives”  

The new drone program, which Capri calls the “unmanned aviation system” is launching in conjunction with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. This will provide police with the requisite training, and certifications needed to use the drones. One sergeant, and four police officers take the training at Embry-Riddle University, said Capri, who called the unmanned aircraft technology “the future of law enforcement.”  

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Drones and Law Enforcement – Some Connecticut companies are positioning for a drone boom!

“We envision a future where every squad car in America has a drone integrated into its computer system” said Paul Ouellette, a spokesman for a West Haven based distributor Drone USA. “At present the drone industry is in infancy. Police departments are just learning how drones can make their work simpler and safer.”

The Company flew quadcopter, and airplane type drones in demonstrations to police departments in Trumbull, and on Jennings Beach in Fairfield. They hope to get a foothold in the Connecticut, and New Jersey markets by selling, and servicing drones like the

Over twenty-four police agencies across the United States are using drones to enhance common police activities. Drones are being used for a variety of things, including search and rescue, crime prevention, surveillance, and criminal apprehension in many states in the US. Drones are also being used by Federal Agencies, including the United States Border Patrol, the FBI, and the National Park Service.  

What about privacy issues?

The fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution states… “The right of the people to be secure in their person, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated… but upon probable cause.” What this means is that government authorities cannot intrude into peoples private lives without a warrant issued by a judge based on the reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.

But when the police drones fly over homes, businesses, and public places like parks, parking lots, sidewalks, and city streets the majority of the people being observed, and photographed are innocent citizens. Most police departments are sensitive to this issue. In 2012 the international Association of Chiefs of Police issued

Donated Drones and Law Enforcement

The Elkhart, Indiana Police Department (Just outside of South Bend, Indiana) have new state-of-the-art technology added to investigate cases, and fight crime. A local businessman has donated a $15,000 drone equipped with high-definition camera, thermal imaging, and  night vision capabilities that will be used as their eye-in-the-sky. Police say it will cover a lot of ground for them and save time in an emergency.  

A number of police agencies across the country are now using drones in their day-to-day operations to get a birds-eye view of areas they are called to. According to Elkhart Police Captain Bryan Moore… “There is a world of electronics, and a massive amount of technology out there available. So if you are not moving forward, you are basically standing still. So this is something I have been looking at for quite awhile.”

He also points out that it can be used for a variety of situations, whether looking for missing children, senior citizens, accident reconstructions, events and activities, (like the popular Jazz Festival, and county fairs.) SWAT incidents, manhunts, and observing the recent flooding in Elkhart, Indiana.  

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Drones for the police to use is a big deal!

The department plans to have a pool of trained officers to use them, according to stringent policies and guideline. “we are extremely cognizant of peoples rights. we are going to do a lot on training on it.” Moore said. He also said they will have a three to six month window to complete all of the training before putting the camera in use. A big plus is the drone can cover a great distance in a matter of minutes.

Moore said “It is huge for us. I mean we only have so much manpower, we can only cover so much ground, but with this, it all of a sudden puts some eyes in the sky for us.” In addition to donating the drone, a local businessman also donated a $15,000 ATV Scout vehicle that will be used by the drone operator in the field.


A U.S. citizen is charged with (Fox News) more than 13 pounds (6.1 kilograms) of methamphetamine from Mexico by drone. An unusually large seizure for what is still a novel technique to bring illegal drugs into the United States. The man told authorities that he used drones to smuggle drugs five or six times. Typically delivering them to an accomplice at a nearby gas station in San Diego. He said he was to be paid $1,000 for the attempt that ended in his arrest.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said in a recent annual report that drones are not often used to smuggle drugs from Mexico because they can only carry small loads, though it said they may become more common. In 2015, two people pleaded guilty to dropping 28 pounds (62 kilograms) of heroin from a drone in the border town of Calexico, California. That same year, Border Patrol agents in San Luis, Arizona, spotted a drone dropping bundles with 30 pounds (66 kilograms) of marijuana.  

Drones and Law Enforcement: Drones don’t appeal to smugglers

Alana Robinson, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of California, said drones haven’t appealed to smugglers because their noise attracts attention and battery life is short. Also, payloads pale compared to other transportation methods, like hidden vehicle compartments, boats or tunnels. As technology addresses those shortcomings, Robinson expects drones to become more attractive to smugglers.

The biggest advantage for them is that the drone operator can stay far from where the drugs are dropped, making it less likely to get caught.”The Border Patrol is very aware of the potential and are always listening and looking for drones,” Robinson said.

Border Patrol agents in San Diego allegedly encountered the man about 2,000 yards (1,830 meters) from the Mexico border with the methamphetamine in a lunch box and a 2-foot (0.6-meter) drone hidden in a nearby bush.  

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Drone Smuggling items/drugs into prisons

Enterprising prison inmates have begun using drones to smuggle contraband — including porn, drugs and cell phones — into facilities across the country.

Justice Department documents obtained by Y reveal more than a dozen attempts to transport illegal goods into state and federal facilities over the past five years.

Inmates employing drone technology present a unique challenge for penitentiary facilities. Drone experts say that current technologies can’t stop the unmanned aerial devices from transporting banned items, including firearms into prisons, according to the report.

Drones and Law Enforcement: Drones getting more affordable

“Civilian drones are becoming more inexpensive, easy to operate and powerful. A growing number of criminals seem to be recognizing their potential value as tools for bad deeds,” Troy Rule, a drone legislation advocate told USA TODAY.

Criminals are capitalizing on drones’ potential while entrepreneurial companies including Amazon are using them to introduce services like Amazon Prime Air, which delivers packages weighing up to five pounds in 30 minutes or less. The documents detail multiple attempts by inmates to smuggle illicit property into guarded facilities.

An inmate at a high-security federal prison in Victorville, California hired an accomplice to smuggle in two cell phones via drone in March 2015. The maneuver went unnoticed by jail officials for five months.

“The threat posed by drones to introduce contraband into prison and for other means is increasing,” Justin Long, a spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons told USA TODAY. Officials are working to develop new measures to counter smuggling via drones.



A UK prison uses a system that deflects drones from flying over perimeter walls by blocking their frequencies. Jail management consultant Donald Leach said drones allow prisoners to bring larger and more dangerous items into jails compared to more conventional smuggling methods.

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“Traditionally some inmates would bribe the staff or visitors to bring drugs and other small items into jail illegally by hiding them in body cavities, etc.,” Leach told USA TODAY. “But drones have opened up the possibility of transporting much bigger and much more lethal items like guns into the facilities.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does not yet enforce laws that block drones from flying over sensitive sites. A pending Senate Bill, the Drone Federalism Act, would “affirm state regulatory authority regarding the operation of unmanned aerial systems (UAS), or drones.”

Drones and Law Enforcement: What is the most promising use for drones in police work?

Drones have the ability to hover, maneuver, and gather details, making drones an important tool for another branch of law enforcement:

Forensic Photographers.

Forensic photographers collect, and analyse crime scene evidence. They visually record the scene from every conceivable angle before the site is cleaned up. Aided by a drone, a forensic photographer could fully document a crime scene a lot faster. Cameras on the drone can capture 3-D still images as well as video to be used later by investigators as they reconstruct the crime.

I believe one of the most promising use for drones in police work is in search-and-rescue missions. (Escaped convicts, missing crime victims, cars that crashed and left the road, missing children, and older adults, lost hikers, lost in a snowstorm, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, airplane crashes, water accidents, and I could go on and on!) The drones can fly at night over rugged terrain, map out search areas to aid response teams then home in on the body heat of lost individuals.

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DRONE USE AND LAW ENFORCEMENT… what are the percentages from the public?

Drone use by law enforcement agencies worldwide is increasing, but the public has mixed feelings about them. 68 percent of Americans support police use of drones for solving crimes. 62 percent support routine surveillance by drones equipped with cameras, and 88 percent favor the use of drones for search and rescue.  

While no one knows what role surveillance drones will play in the future, there is little doubt that the number of law enforcement eyes-in-the-sky will continue to multiply as long as criminals continue to commit crimes.

Thanks for reading, and tell your friends! Be sure to check out my – AJ