Unmanned aircraft use an autopilot that flies the aircraft while the operator on the ground uploads navigational information. The autopilot maintains stable flight using micro sized sensors, primarily developed for use in Smartphones, powered by Lithium Polymer batteries.
Frequently Asked Questions
The retail price would be in the range of $25,000.00 to $50,000.00, per system. Actual operating cost(s), at this time are low for our agency, but in order to project long term operating cost to include replacement parts, batteries, etc., we have projected $25.00 an hour for operating cost (as a reasonable rate). In contrast, manned aviation can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars per hour.
Historically, law enforcement has had the ability to have an aerial view with manned aircraft for many decades. As a result, case law has been established that guides our use and there is no effort here to use UAS to circumvent well established 4th Amendment protections. The technology in these civilian systems is appropriately limited. For example, our equipment does not allow us to see through walls, listen to conversations, monitor cell phone, etc. Our unmanned systems are mission and incident driven only. Images collected with the use of this technology are handled and retained within industry standards, consistent with images collected with any camera by law enforcement, and are subject to professional standards, codes of conduct, case law and with the public’s trust in mind.
Yes, we can legally fly our UAS over citizens’ backyards with the same guidelines used by manned aviation applying. However, if the subject of a search is your backyard, in the course of an investigation, an agency may seek a warrant or consent from the property owner, until case law specific to UAS, can be established.
No. There is no use for weapons and UAS in civilian law enforcement.
No. The data that travels through the air is encrypted. In addition, safe guards are in place that if the technology fails, the aircraft slowly descends to the ground or returns to its launch site autonomously.
Thus far, UAS has demonstrated to be a practical, cost effective alternative to manned aviation. We have identified two core missions as crime scene photography, and search and rescue. However, the primary driving factor is the fact that these systems cost us just $25.00 per hour to operate as compared to $400.00 to $1,200.00 an hour for manned aviation.
Yes, as is recommended with any tool used by law enforcement, use of a UAV is within the guidelines of a robust policy.
Yes, flight approval is required and law enforcement agencies are granted flight approval by the Federal Aviation Administration. The official document is referred to as a Certificate of Authorization/Waiver. It is the approval process by which the Federal Aviation Administration allows for public agencies (divisions of government) to operate UAS in the national airspace given there are no current regulations in place for UAS operations.