The Inevitable Adoption and Use of Drones in Public Safety Agencies

For several years now, drones have been a hot, if not, controversial topic. And a lot of that controversy stems from how drones are used. Most people are OK with Amazon announcing it will use drones to deliver goods to customers. However, some are opposed to the idea of public safety or law enforcement agencies using drones. This idea of ‘big brother’ flying overhead and watching doesn’t sit well with many people, especially in a world where personal privacy seems to be vanishing.

The truth is that more and more public safety and law enforcement agencies will adopt drone technology in the future. It’s inevitable. Why? Because drones are more cost effective than maintaining and operating helicopters for search and rescue missions, following car chases, and collecting information on natural disaster like floods and wild fires. Plus, they have advantages over other tools used for crime scene and accident reconstruction. First responders will use these technologies to improve on-scene knowledge, situational awareness, and the delivery of services, not spy on citizens.

Within the context of public safety and law enforcement, drones are merely a tool to capture incident data and aid investigations through various sensors. As a partner to public safety agencies, it’s our job, and the job of our technology, to improve the quality, accuracy, and availability of mission-critical information. So, we’re working with our customers to determine how best to integrate the data capturing capabilities of drone technology into those workflows that leverage our software. Is it a live video feed in a PSAP or EOC for real-time decision making? Is it image and spatial data for post-incident analysis? I think it can be both and myriad of other things, depending on the needs and goals of an agency.

Since this technology is still in the early phases of adoption, we are partnering with public safety and law enforcement agencies like the Arlington Police Department in Texas to help define how drones are used, what data they capture and how that information is, and can be, leveraged. While the Arlington Police Department has only been using drones since 2013, they’ve been laying the foundation of their drone program since 2008. Launching a drone program is a difficult process, fraught with FAA regulations and buy-in from agency and community leaders, which carry political implications. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

While it’s still early days for drone applications in public safety or law enforcement agencies, they are the next big thing. The cost effectiveness and the improvement to operations, officer safety, and service delivery makes them too important to ignore. With agencies like the Arlington Police Department defining best practices and creating a blueprint for others to follow, it’s only a matter of time before we see drones in the skies of major cities.

If you’re interested in learning more about how the Arlington Police Department is using drone technology, read Lt. Brook Rollins article in Police Magazine. Or watch our recent interview with Rollins for HxGN TV.

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