Police agencies are in love with drone tech and it’s not just about capturing criminals.
Cops across the globe are finding new ways to launch UAVs in police operations — from search and rescue missions to conservation efforts.
In Western Australia, police use drones to locate missing prospectors in the aptly-named Goldfields region. According to ABC-Australia, the prospectors often seek their fortune in the more remote areas and at least two have gone missing in the past two weeks.
“A woman in her 50s spent a night in the bush last week after wandering from her campsite just outside of Kalgoorlie-Boulder, [340 miles] east of Perth, while a man in his 30s became lost while prospecting just days earlier,” reports Australian journalist Rhiannon Shine.
Since manned SAR missions can cost a lot in people power and funds, police officials say drones may provide a more effective and budget-friendly way out.
“These things do run into the tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars very quickly,” Goldfields police superintendent Darryl Gaunt said. “We certainly have an appetite for them [drones],” he added. “They offer us a quality product, it’s highly portable and it’s also far more cost efficient than aircraft.”
Jonathan Roberts, a robotics professor at Queensland University of Technology told ABC that drones may be the ideal SAR solution for the outback. “It’s relatively easy to operate them in areas that are uncluttered,” he said. “The technology does exist for a drone to go out, fly a search area, fill in the search area with pictures on the ground, and even do automatic detection to look for people.”
In South Africa, the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation — dubbed the Hawks – not this kind) — is working with state-owned tech firm Denel Dynamics on a UAV solution to battle rhino poachers in Kruger National Park.
However, the agency is still facing a few hurdles after initial testing of the drones with the nation’s park service proved inconclusive. “When we engaged with Denel, they indicated that they had better technology, so we are running a project with Denel,” Lieutenant General Khehla Sithole said.
Last year, the agency arrested 317 alleged poachers and confiscated 39 horns. Between 2001-12, an estimated 949 of the endangered rhinos were killed. Officials say rhino-horn powder – believed by the uneducated to have medicinal properties, can fetch amounts up to $82,000 per kilogram.