Constant social stigmas continue to surround the increasing use of drones today, but nothing stops police departments from using them to fight crime. Statistics show that there are 347 agencies in the United States who are using drones for tactical work. Drone usage has also increased a whopping 518% in the past two years.
Drones can be used in several different ways to assist police with surveillance and crime prevention, and police forces are applying drone usage to their day-to-day operations at a quickly increasing rate. UAVs equipped with thermal cameras and optical zoom capabilities are the best drones for police and surveillance. Also, a drone can zoom in on a target from a considerable distance, making it unnecessary for police officers to confront dangerous situations.
Here are some of the surprising ways that drones benefit the police.
How Do Drones Help the Police?
Mapping and surveying
Mapping highly frequented locations is a common use for police drones around the country. Instead of using a helicopter to hover over the entire city, which costs around $500-600 per hour, a police department can instead purchase a few drones to do the same job for the price of electricity in the batteries. With drones, police departments use orthomosaic maps. An orthomosaic map is a detailed, accurate photo representation of an area, created out of many photos that have been stitched together and geometrically corrected (“orthorectified”) so that it is as accurate as a map.
Orthomosaic maps help police officers and first responders better understand the specific situation they’ll be facing and prepare accordingly in the event of an active shooter scenario, fire, or other disaster that would require an evacuation or combat. Orthomosaic maps can also provide detailed accounts of the damage in a given location so that the police can accurately assess the damage done to the area.
3D reconstruction of accidents
Orthomosaic mapping has also led to the popular use of drones for 3D reconstruction of accidents. This is highly useful to police departments for multiple reasons. First, the police can send a drone to the sky to collect evidence from angles that were previously impossible without an expensive helicopter. Second, they can do this at multiple times the speed it would take to measure off everything on the ground. Third, they can collect evidence without blocking traffic. Through this, drones provide important information during major traffic accidents by visualizing the magnitude of the accident and its impact on traffic flow. Aside from that, such information can help redirect traffic and help incoming emergency units prioritize their efforts, making the response as efficient as possible.
Chasing down suspects
Drones also allow police officers to scout areas where they believe suspects may be hiding, keeping the mission as discreet as possible. In situations where a suspect could easily be alerted to an officer/patrol car performing routine surveillance, a drone can help combat this problem, and allow for a closer look at any situation, while keeping officers safe at the same time. This is because drones are so small and much quieter than a helicopter that suspects have been reporting that they were not aware of the drone spying on them. Hundreds of police departments today purchase drones to help them chase down suspects.
Crime scene investigation
Because drone technology can recreate a scene by using a measurable and navigable map, they can immensely help crime scene investigation by collecting evidence that are difficult to reach from the ground, surveying a crime scene, and providing 3D images/maps quickly, as well as providing lighting at night or low-light conditions. Drones can also manually capture photos at 60+ frames per second from a still camera or record 4k video as needed. All this can be done in a fraction of the time it takes a ground unit to conduct this same investigation. This works far better than the animated recreations that have been used for years previously.
Search and rescue
Drones have made headlines time and time again for being a key factor in successful search and rescue operations. They are often used to find lost hikers, animals in trouble, and elderly people who wander away from their homes due to mental conditions. Drones can even be used to find crash victims who have been thrown from their car. These drone rescues are becoming more and more common each year. By covering large areas in a short period of time, a drone can help save a life by locating a person much more quickly than could be accomplished on foot so that they can get the medical care they need. They are particularly useful at night when fitted with thermal cameras that pick up heat signatures.
Drones are incredibly useful in managing traffic during rush hours or crowded events. Ground units may have a difficult time trying to assess reasons for backed-up traffic. With a drone overhead, they can immediately assess the situation, figure out the solution, and then radio to the traffic light authorities to change the rate of red-green lights to better manage the flow. These same drones could also be used to monitor vehicle speeds and notify ground units of violators.