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Mon, Jun 04, 2012

UAVs Increasing In Popularity With Law Enforcement

Unmanned Air Vehicle Use Expected To Increase Significantly

The sheriff's department in Mesa County, Colorado has been using two remote controlled drone aircraft to cover 3,300 square miles of mountainous territory. Ben Miller, who oversees the sheriff's two aircraft said “We save a significant amount of time. It provides a huge resource savings.” This is because for roughly the cost of a new police car, a deputy can track suspects, get live video of an arson scene or search for lost hikers without deploying search teams. The benefits for law enforcement are significant. Mesa County's Ben Miller said the drones cost $3.36 and hour to operate compared to $250 to $600 per hour for a manned aircraft. The buy-in price is anywhere between $30,000 to $50,000.

Businessweek reports that nationwide, around 20 state and local governments and another 24 universities have FAA authorization to fly UAVs. In the future as rules and standards are developed to integrate these aircraft with manned aircraft the number of UAVs is expected to increase.

Mary Scott Nabers, president and chief executive officer of industry consultant Strategic Partnerships Inc., said “They’re going to be used very aggressively in the future. The federal government has allocated billions for these, and state and local governments will follow.”

Additional uses for unmanned aircraft include search and rescue, monitoring water supplies, roads, bridges and spotting forest fires guarantees more of the aircraft will be flying in the years to come. Defense industry consulting firm Teal Group says spending on UAVs will nearly double in the next ten years to $11.4 billion. Philip Finnegan from Teal Group said “Use in the U.S. will clearly be a growth area. Governments that in the past couldn’t afford helicopters can now afford UAVs.”

Two major issues have consistently dogged widespread use of unmanned aircraft in the U.S. First is the safe integration with manned aircraft without causing hazardous conditions for operation. Next are privacy issues. Amie Stepanovich, national security counsel with the Electronic Privacy Information Center said “Governments have been using aircraft for a long time, but if it’s cheaper and easier, it becomes more invasive. There are obvious benefits to drones, but if you buy a drone to monitor fires and then start using it to monitor individuals, we think there needs to be protection.”

FMI: www.faa.gov

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