Here’s an interesting film-buff question: Could you make a modern reboot of the popular Harrison Ford film The Fugitive?
Answer: You could — but it would be over in 10 minutes as Tommy Lee Jones’ character launches a drone, easily locating and capturing the unjustly accused Dr. Richard Kimble.
During a test flight of the drone (which was to be purchased for less than $4,000 using money seized in drug raids), police received word that Nicholas Maldonado had escaped from the Sandusky County Jail where he had been incarcerated after an allegedly melee with a county deputy following a traffic stop.
Det. Derek Wensinger launched the Inspire 1 to survey a wooded area where Maldonado was believed to be hiding. After quickly locating the escapee, drone footage recorded Maldonado’s second arrest.
“[He] stole a bike and a purse and was crawling through the water in the wooded area,” Wensinger told the News-Messenger. “ In the future we will be able to use the drone to track the bike tire treads leading into the woods.”
Ironically, the police force had only intended to launch the drone as part of a training exercise under the tutelage of local hobby store owner Bruce Chambers. “I think it paid for itself a hundredfold after [the incident],” Chambers said. “This worked out fabulous.”
This is not the first time drones have helped police capture suspects. In 2014, Grand Forks, N.D. police launched a UAV to locate four underage man who fled the scene after a drunk-driving traffic stop. “One of them was walking through the cornfield. It took about three minutes to find him,” deputy sheriff’s officer Alan Frazier told DRONELIFE. “The other was found on a second flight, after maybe 25 minutes.”
The four first gained the “honor” of being the first reported arrests in the U.S. via local police drone.
While there are many success stories, some police UAV searches end much like The Fugitive – without success. Last month, a drone launched by the Shawnee, Kan. police force to find an armed suspect yielded no results. However, police there were optimistic their new drone will bear fruit in future operations as they learn more about flight operations.
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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