The Adoption of Fire and Law Enforcement Drones

 Control and view the drone's aerial footage right from the command center.

Control and view the drone's aerial footage right from the command center.

We live in a world of ever increasing expectations of our Law Enforcement and Fire/EMS officials. Agency use of new technology in this century has been rising dramatically. Just 20 years ago most agencies were still working with pen and paper for reports in the field and dispatched every facet of a call over an easily intercepted analog radio system with many limitations. Today we find computers in nearly all vehicles, body cameras, and digitally encrypted radios but among all these advances the leader of this growth the last 2 years arguably is the law enforcement and fire drone.

We have seen exponential growth and for good reason. These public safety drones provide new views to old problems. How do first responders know what is happening on the scene from all angles? The recent Bard College Center For The Study Of The Drone shows us that since this time last year, the number of agencies with drone programs has tripled to over 900. A high level breakdown of those numbers shows:

  • ⅔  of drones are used by Law Enforcement and ⅓ are Fire
  • 33% are County police or sheriff agencies
  • 30% are municipal police agencies
  • 20% are municipal or county fire agencies

The arrival of the drone for any agency presents great opportunities for more situational awareness on the scene of incidents such as search & rescue, suspect foot pursuits and working structure fires. However, the speed in which this information can be provided is constrained by the response of the pilot and his/her vehicle with the drone. Add to this the set up time once they arrive on scene and any responder quickly realizes that there are improvements to be made.

The challenge now becomes how to add actionable intelligence with real time video disseminated to command staff and responding units before arrival. A good example for law enforcement is the inevitable multi-unit response to a robbery in progress. Often these events can have perpetrator descriptions provided by 911 callers as they flee on foot. Unfortunately unavoidable traffic is routinely the culprit of delayed response time for units rushing to the reported address. Such delays can result in less than optimal perimeters. Additionally, the department or partner agency K9 unit often has an extended response time as well.  

In the response to a fire emergency such as a multi-dwelling structure fire, there is likely to be multiple calls coming into the 911 PSAP that may include trapped occupants. Having verifiable video as soon as possible before units can meander through traffic can mean the difference between lives lost or saved.

 First responders arrive on scene to arrest a burglar. 

First responders arrive on scene to arrest a burglar. 

The prevailing theme here is fast response with first on scene video. Insert the concept of a police drone equipped with a high zoom camera responding to these calls immediately - no traffic to dodge, just a straight flight to the call, safely piloted by those at the dispatch or command center who are most aware of the additional information coming in from callers. This is today's accessible and affordable technology.

With your agency's adoption of drones comes new challenges to justify their use and experience even more value for the acquisition. Can drones improve your agency's response times? Can your agency fly with greater ease and safety using geofencing technology?  Can you provide greater information in one common operating picture of incidents before ground units arrive with shared live video from the drone? Cape’s Aerial Telepresence™ solution in the cloud answers these questions. Demo Cape’s Aerial Telepresence solution today and speak with a drone expert to learn more.  

Yumi Nakamura