Police departments have adopted drones as a tool in their operations; the numbers rise from year to year in a powerful trend that continues to grow. The rate of increase in the past two years was approximately 500 percent; there are about 350 government agencies using drones across the US. Commercial drone training is an accessible resource, and the public investment in drone technology and training is far more flexible and productive than a similar investment in manned aircraft. Drones offer enhanced capacity for the below-described police functions.
• Search and rescue
• Accident reconstruction
• Active shooter situations
• Crime scene analysis and verification
• Surveillance and monitoring
Drones are a more democratic tool than fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters; far more jurisdictions have drones than manned aircraft. The difference in costs of operation is substantial. It is an important distinction because the costs of equipment, maintenance, and training are far greater for manned aircraft than drones. Commercial drone training has raised the level of professionalism among drone operators, and the urban, heavily populated areas lead in the frequency of owning drones.
The future growth of police drones in drone technology in law enforcement will reflect the enhanced ability of police forces to perform critical missions. As police departments and the local public become accustomed to the advantages of drone technology, they will expect and demand more. Crowds and large movements of people are particularly good situations for drone monitoring and surveillance. Search and rescue is the foremost example of improved capability from drones. Drones can assist searches that might require hundreds of person-hours and operations in difficult terrain.
Accident reconstruction and preservation of evidence is an excellent use of drone technology and an efficient and cost savings approach. With a proper foundation, police can prepare evidence grade information using drones. Drone expansion is not without controversy, public observation such as crowd monitoring create issues about privacy and police overreach. Given the proliferation of cameras and security device, drones essentially add mobility to a practice that is already well established in cities and communities across the US.
As police work expands its use of drones, commercial drone training gains importance. Drones play an ever-widening set of functions. Technology will continue to add tools and capacity to drone systems, and police enforcement will integrate drones into new or revised practices.