A Short Drone History
It may surprise you to learn that drones are not new technology. In fact, the first toy drone was designed in 1920 by Etienne Omnichen. The next major development in drones was the quadcopter, designed in 1956, by Dr. George Bothezat.
During WW2, Reginald Denny, a famous actor, set up the Reginald Denny Company to produce the Radioplane, used to collect radio-active data by the US Army in WW2. Drone technology continued to develop in the military, and in the late 1990s the US Air Force and CIA introduced the Predator drone.
The 21st Century has introduced the Endurance Unmanned Crafts (EUCs) that carry cameras and can stay in the air for long periods of time. In 1998, an EUC named Laima crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 26 hours, proving EUCs could tackle major surveillance missions.
Drones aren’t just for having fun. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles have been doing good around the globe since they first came onto the scene. Now they are helping to bring down criminals.
Jarrod Burguan, Police Chief of the San Bernardino Police Department, was one of those hobbyists who realized his hobby offered unique opportunities to aid in police work while protecting officers from harm. His interest in drones had started as a hobby. He was a skilled photographer and had heard that you could take great aerial shots using a drone, so he invested in a drone to supplement his hobby.
Before long other members of his police department had joined him in flying drones, and when they were not flying, they began discussing scenarios where they could use a drone at work.
Proper Implementation – Chain of Command
Realizing not everyone saw drones as a useful tool and that many viewed them as a military weapon, Chief Burguan chose to be very transparent in proposing the use of drones by his police officers.
Do Your Research
Planning always begins with research. The first step was to brainstorm how they planned to use the drone and what it would need to be capable of.
Next, although they all flew drones as hobbyists, they researched the ability of available models to do the work they expected to use it for.
Present Your Idea
Even though the purchase price for the equipment fell well within his spending limits without Council approval, Chief Burguan decided to propose the use of drones for approval by City Council. They were in favor of the proposal, and following City Council approval, they now use the drone like a robot to perform duties that are in difficult to reach places or where an officer’s life would be in danger.
Uses of Drones in Police Work
Events that draw large crowds (parades, political events, speeches, concerts, and sporting events) stretch police resources to the max. The event requires many police personnel, yet the streets must still be covered.
One way to spread resources a little farther is to add teams of drones to your surveillance entourage. While a person can only observe one area at a time, a drone can speed back and forth and up and down, covering a large area very quickly. Drones carry onboard cameras which can zoom in on questionable movements to get a better look at what is going on. If the drone’s monitor decides a physical presence is required, a nearby officer can be quickly dispatched to investigate.
Inspecting Suspicious Packages
A team made up of an aerial drone and a robot can quickly move in to investigate a suspicious package. The drone can be dispatched first to provide close-up photos and perhaps rule out threats before precious resources are wasted.
If it is determined the threat should be investigated further, the robot can be dispatched next. Robots are capable of touching and manipulating a package, shielding a human from the danger of assessing the potential bomb threat.
The robot returns its data to the humans who are charged with deciding what to do next.
The stakeout has long been standard operating procedure for police departments, but stakeouts can be very dangerous. There are times when there is no safe place of cover to observe from. Drones can be positioned in places they won’t be easily observed. With the rotors off but the power on, they can return close-up video of events below.
If a meet-up is taking place in an open field where it would be impossible to place a live officer, the drone can be dispatched at a high altitude where it will not be seen or heard, but it can return close-up video of the scene below.
Analysis of Crime Scenes and Traffic Accidents
We’ve probably all been caught behind a traffic accident while investigators take measurements of skid marks, the resting place of the vehicles, where the vehicles started from, etc. Active scene investigations must be correctly documented, or the evidence will not hold up in court.
Today, crime scene analysts using drone technology can keep active scene investigation down to less than an hour. The drone is flown over the scene to take measurements of the ground to use for reference later. It is then flown around the scene taking pictures. The analyst can then take the measurements and the photos and prepare their accident investigation report from the safety of their office instead of tying the scene up for hours.
If a rash of burglaries has started in a neighborhood, drones can patrol without being observed and they can cover a much larger area at one time.
Active Shooter Events
A drone can capture pictures of what is going on from a safe distance. The drone can locate the shooter, document the layout of the surroundings, the direction the shooter might be going, and possible escape routes for people trapped in the active zone.
In the case where evidence is suspected to be in a field, the usual procedure is for a team of investigators to walk the field side-by-side to ensure every inch of the field is covered. A drone can cover the field in much less time, and one officer can walk over and pick it up, saving countless hours in man hours and freeing investigators to work on other cases.
Drones are the best investigative tool discovered for police use since the robot came on the scene. Just like its counterpart, the drone saves police lives. In addition to what the robot can accomplish, the drone can get into areas no people or robot could get into and take photos of the scene. Its surveillance uses should help capture criminals in the act and aid the prosecution in preparing its case.
The cost of a drone is minimal compared to the life of even one police officer, so it is budget-friendly and very useful.
If your department has never considered this form of technology, perhaps you should begin your research phase today.