Law enforcement drones: Everything you need to know

What are drone laws?

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), can be used in ways that might surprise you.

Drones are not just large military airplanes dispatched to spy on enemies and kill human targets.

A new industry has sprung up around drones, with an explosion of innovations for hobbyists and professional photographers who want to use them for photography, film-making, rescue work, farming analysis, traffic reports, sports events, law enforcement surveillance, search-and-rescue missions, nature studies, pipeline inspections or even delivery of items bought online .

Who can fly a law enforcement drone?

If law enforcement drones were already in widespread use, we’d be able to answer this question more precisely. As it happens, some law enforcement officials have used drones on a limited basis.

For example, law enforcement agencies such as the Arlington Police Department (APD) in Texas are using drones for rescue missions.

They don’t allow public agencies to fly them in this manner because of safety concerns regarding aircraft traffic at airports!

Drones are being used by law enforcement for a variety of reasons, including mapping crime scenes and monitoring protests.

What do you think they could be using them to accomplish in the future?

The APD has acquired several types of UAVs over the years, including fixed-wing aircraft and multirotor craft.

Some drones are so small that officers can hold them in their hands, while others are as big as a small plane. The APD used law enforcement drones to conduct two rescues so far.

In one case, UAVs helped track a suicidal man who had gone into the water and refused to return to shore.

In another case, law enforcement drone pilots assisted with a search-and-rescue mission related to a car accident.

What law enforcement agencies have been using drones to help them in their work?

In addition to fixed-wing surveillance aircraft, law enforcement agencies have experimented with multirotor crafts for limited missions.

However, the FAA stopped short of permitting wide use of these devices for future missions because they weren’t fast or large enough for surveillance work.

The APD’s law enforcement drone program has been the subject of scrutiny and controversy.

Since then, law enforcement officials have demonstrated at least two different law enforcement drones in action:

The APD has posted footage from drones on YouTube. Finally, the city council approved a bill last year that specifies when and how law enforcement can use these devices.

What limitations does law enforcement currently face?

For example, they must keep their craft within line of sight while flying them outdoors.

At this time, law enforcement agencies must seek a warrant to fly law enforcement drones with cameras over private property or crowds of people.

What about privacy?

Critics of law-enforcement drone use have raised questions about the potential for unfettered surveillance by police officers, particularly since law enforcement officials have experimented with more advanced types of UAVs that carry high-resolution video cameras.

By ordinance, the department may use data gathered by law enforcement drones only to investigate crimes and missing person reports, along with traffic accidents. It may not store any images of people gathered by law enforcement drones without a warrant.

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