By Kathleen Berger
Police departments across the country buy drones each year to help serve and protect citizens and their officers. SWAT teams are using them in a variety of tactical operations. Having an eye in the sky provides intelligence and guides the ground units. Reducing uncertainty also helps to reduce the stress levels of SWAT teams.
Officer Scott Brown is a member of the Tactical Operations Unit for the St. Louis County Police Department. Brown played an integral role getting the department’s first law enforcement drones in the hands of his unit. He took the lead by conducting UAV training exercises before introducing the unmanned aerial vehicles to real-life situations. St. Louis County Police launched four law enforcement drones to be used for limited circumstances.
“Our drone costs between $35,000 to $38,000,” said Brown. “It’s a broad tool for the whole department to be able to utilize and make everybody’s job safer.”
In the case of tactical operations, Brown said drones help identify suspects and weapons. In a case where a man is barricaded in a vehicle or house, police can use the drone’s sophisticated cameras to see whether the man has weapons and to see if he’s alone. Drones allow the officers to investigate from a safe distance.
The cameras can be used during the day or night as the technology is equipped with infrared sensors to pick up heat signatures of the person or persons the drones are seeking or investigating.
“Missing people in parks; missing elderly people with dementia, Alzheimer’s; missing children,” explained Brown.
Brown said he expects the police drones will largely go unnoticed by the public.
“When we bring our drones out, we’re there for a specific reason,” said Brown. “There are only specific things and details that we are going to be able to utilize our drones for.”
He listed the department’s uses for drones to include planning tactical responses during emergencies, assisting with search and rescue operations, assessing the scope of a scene, documenting crime scenes and providing aerial views during special circumstances.
Brown created police simulations for HEC Media. The simulations show the drone’s capabilities when investigating an armed and dangerous man barricaded in a vehicle and when searching for a man fleeing from police. To see the technology’s capability, watch the HEC video story!