Coming to a Neighborhood Near You…Drones You Can’t See

Tuesday, January 25, 2011
DraganFlyer X6 (photo:
Drones, a mainstay in modern warfare for the American military, may soon become equally commonplace in U.S. law enforcement efforts.
The unmanned, remote-controlled aircraft widely used in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan are now utilized, in limited instances, by state and local enforcement, such as to scout a residence from high above before storming in to apprehend dangerous suspects.
Until now, police could only turn to drones like the bird-sized Wasp in emergency situations because of the required approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which controls all U.S. airspace.
The FAA, however, is expected to formulate new rules within two years that would allow police to routinely fly small, unarmed drones up to 400 feet above the ground, making them virtually invisible to unsuspecting people on the ground.
At present, only a few law enforcement agencies are engaged in a pilot pilotless program for domestic use of drones. These include the Texas Department of Public Safety, and sheriff’s departments in Queen Anne’s County, Maryland, Miami-Dade County in Florida and Mesa County, Colorado. However, many other agencies would like to follow suit, if for no other reason than cost. A police helicopter can run up to $1 million, while a drone system goes for less than $50,000.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky


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