Belgian police Chief Frank Mulleners explained that the Euro-nation will soon deploy Altura Zenith drones to patrol the Limburg area in eastern Belgium.
Police there have already used drones 70 times to search for missing persons, monitor traffic and control crowds. The Zenith will be equipped with a livestream video connection and a thermal camera.
“We can act very quickly and do not have to wait for a helicopter to begin our work and the purchase price is not comparable with that of a helicopter,” Mulleners said.
Using drones for police and security work is not a new practice in Europe. A German railway system is using UAVs to battle graffiti artists and gather evidence for police in such cases.
But while Europe may have success fighting bad guys from the unmanned skies, police use of drones in the U.S. faces a storm of opposition and controversy. In 2014, an investigative report by Motherboard revealed that the San Jose Police Department owned a drone of which it earlier claimed to have no records. The public outcry surrounding police drones led some cities, like Seattle and Pal Alto, to ground their UAV programs. Several states are debating legislation to limit how police use drones and store drone-gather data.
However, some American police departments are joining their European counterparts in the quest for drone detectives. On Tuesday, the Jackson (Miss.) Police Department conducted a demonstration for the media as it shops around for a potential law-enforcement drone system. Robert Estes, a UAV vendor vying for the Jackson contract, told WLBT that his company already deploys drones in Tennessee and Arkansas for police search-and-rescue and that he’s has trained police in Bolivia to use UAS.
Strangely enough, some police departments have found drone use fodder for pranks. On April 1, the Kenton County Police Department posted a Facebook message stating it had launched an autonomous traffic-cop drone that photographs traffic-law breakers and then sends a “flying printer that chases the car down” and could then affix a ticket on the offending car’s windshield.
Jason is a longstanding contributor to DroneLife with an avid interest in all things tech. He focuses on anti-drone technologies and the public safety sector; police, fire, and search and rescue.
Beginning his career as a journalist in 1996, Jason has since written and edited thousands of engaging news articles, blog posts, press releases and online content.
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