The iconic image of the British bobby may someday be replaced by a more futuristic constable – an augmented drone force patrolling the skies of England and Wales as UAVs in law enforcement define a new trend across the industry.
According to a report obtained by British media, around 25 percent of the combined 43 United Kingdom police agencies are hammering out a set of guidelines for governing the use of drones for a wide array of law-enforcement tactics including burglary investigations and hostage situational analysis.
Steve Barry of the British National Police Chiefs’ Council’s (NPCC) told Ars Technica that police agencies had already completed a trial in Surrey and Sussex and he felt UAVs “can be efficient and effective” in sniffing out fleeing suspects and keeping an eye on potential sieges
“You could send up the drone and use the video link before making a decision how to proceed,” he said, adding that the trial deployed Aeryon SkyRanger quadcopters funded by a “Police Innovation Fund” grant.
Aeryon Labs Inc. is fast becoming synonymous with police deployment of drones. Last year, the Canadian company announced that the Michigan State Police had agreed to standardize its statewide drone deployment with the SkyRanger. In October, Microsoft announced inclusion of SkyRangers in its Advanced Patrol Platform car for use by law enforcement.
Sensing an emerging niche market, many drone manufacturers have ramped up sales pitches to police agencies worldwide. In November — less than a week after the deadly terrorist attacks that massacred 129 people across Paris — the city played host to the 19th Worldwide Exhibition of State Security, Milipol.
“Many police forces are looking to beef up their anti-terrorism and surveillance arsenals. And according to several drone manufacturers, many police forces are turning to them,” writes Eric Markowitz for International Business Times. German drone manufacturer AirRobot reports an increase in police inquiries about its line of surveillance UAVs in 2015. French drone startup Aeraccess, recently concluded an agreement with the French national police’s elite counterterrorism squad, RAID, to produce an antiterrorism drone, which can be customized with tools or weapons weighing up to 2 kilograms.
As evidenced by Milpol, European police agencies seem to be taking the lead in drone use. For example, Belgian national police will soon deploy Altura Zenith drones to patrol the Limburg area in eastern Belgium.
However, some American police agencies are moving forward with drone tech. The Jackson (Miss.) Police Department recently conducted a demonstration for the media as it shops around for a potential law-enforcement drone system. However, many privacy and civil liberties groups in the U.S. have opposed drone deployment by police. In August, police in San Jose, Calif. became the first department in the Bay Area to be allowed to use a drone after the city council approved a one year pilot program. The vote was the culmination of more than a year of controversy surrounding the unmanned aerial vehicle in which privacy advocates sparred with police officials — who promised the drone would not be used to spy on citizens.
Meanwhile in Canada, regional police in York, Ont. are using Aeryon drones to help shorten the process of investigating collisions and get traffic moving again promptly after a crash. Using a drone to capture aerial images could reduce road closure time by eight to 10 hours. “The UAV is a welcome addition to our investigative tool box,” said chief of police, Eric Jolliffe, in a press release.
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.
Subscribe to DroneLife here.