sUAS used for public safety purposes are unmanned aircraft systems that weigh no more than 55 pounds including their payload or onboard technology systems.
Types of UAS used by police
The types of sUAS used by police include quadcopters, hexacopters, fixed wing, and unmanned helicopters.
Photo credit: AeroVironment, Inc.
Photo credit: CNET
Photo credit: Mesa County Sheriff's Office
Photo credit: York Regional Police
Why is law enforcement interested in sUAS for public safety?
Law enforcement is interested in using sUAS for public safety because of its low cost when compared to manned aircraft, portability which allows for rapid deployment, and its various public safety and operational applications.
Of approximately 18,000 police agencies in the U.S., less than 200 can afford to acquire a helicopter. sUAS can fulfill many of the same functions of a manned helicopter for 1/10th of the cost. Training, operating, and storage costs for sUAS are also a fraction of the cost.
Public Safety & Operations Applications
There are many public safety and operation applications including traffic crash reconstruction, support of fire operations, disaster response, and officer safety to name only a few.
The co-production of public safety
Small unmanned aircraft systems have the potential to greatly enhance law enforcement operations. From search and rescue to accident scene investigation to protecting officer safety in active shooter situations, sUAS offer a wide range of potential operational improvements.
However, law enforcement agencies interested in leveraging UAS technology in their departments must consider the needs, fears, and concerns of their communities. The co-production of public safety is key to the success of any sUAS program. In addition to community considerations there are important legal, regulatory, and safety considerations.
Harnessing sUAS capabilities for public safety requires at a minimum:
A pledge from law enforcement to operate the technology transparently. Community understanding, support and willingness to co-produce public safety is key.
Compliance with the law, regulatory compliance, and the appropriate training and skills to operate the technology in a safe manner.
The following guidelines address these important issues in greater detail: