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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Drones—Coming to a Squad Car Near You

A DJI Phantom Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS).
Last year during the LMCIT spring workshops, we offered a course entitled "Keeping the Horse in Front of the Cart: How to Stay Compliant in a World of Rapidly Changing Technology." At the end of the presentation, we showed a photograph of a small drone and joked that "at next year's 2015 workshops, we would probably include a model policy for law enforcement's use of drones." The officers chuckled, but it appears our attempt at humor may have foretold the very near future.

To get up to speed, you may want to view a
31-minute webcast from the University of North Dakota Department of Aerospace Center for Unmanned Aviation Systems (UAS). The webcast is entitled "Small UAS and Law Enforcement."

In the webcast, Assistant Professor Al Frazier predicts that police officers with UAS may soon be used similarly to canine officers. It is likely that when a police officer or fire commander needs an overhead view of a call, or needs to improve their situational awareness, they will call for a "drone car." The officer or the firefighter will respond and launch a small UAS with an on-board camera to get an eye in the sky and look for the lost child, find the suspect who fled on foot, or fly over the hazardous materials spill or large wild land fire.

There may be other municipal uses for UAS, including assisting in special event planning and damage assessments after a severe storm. The technology is here, and with UAS incidents regularly making headlines—and with the FAA and others sorting out how they are regulated—we may indeed have the horse in front of the cart for a while. There are also privacy concerns being raised as this new technology is being rolled out.

It appears that UAS may be a
public safety tool in the near future.
Currently a fire department, police department, or city needs to obtain a Certificate of Authorization from the FAA to operate a UAS. The certificate determines who can pilot the craft, the training requirements, the conditions for flight, the flight area, the hours of operation, and the reporting requirements.

It is critical that cities obtain the certificate before beginning UAS operations. It is expected that the FAA will release more rules and regulations by the end of the year. We will be following this as it develops.


Remember: Responder Safety = Public Safety

Up next...More Online Resources and A New "Did You Know" Video.

In the meantime, stay safe and be careful,


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