Drones offer local governments a chance to get a bird's-eye view of their communities. Three cities announced plans this week to add the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to their fleets.
Dallas, Texas, Deputy Police Chief Mike Igo announced the UAS unit will assist with search and rescue operations, disaster response, missing persons searches, fugitive apprehensions, and more. Officers on the ground who are responding to incidents will use the drones. The drone operators will receive training on Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines, Texas law regarding UAS, and internal standard operating procedures to include education on the Fourth Amendment. According to an article from Dallas-based KTVT, recordings will be kept for a minimum of three months. If evidentiary evidence exists, recordings may be kept longer.
Phoenix, Arizona, city officials presented a three-phased plan this week, breaking down how they hope three departments would use UAS within the next year. According to Phoenix-based KPNX, firefighters hope to launch their first drones by this summer, followed by the parks department and then the police department. Assistant Fire Chief Scott Walker said introducing drones could help safety agencies operate more efficiently as the city deals with a staffing shortage. The drones could be used by firefighters during rescue missions or to assess an area with hazardous materials. Police could use the UAS to collect footage for reconstructing car crashes or to help manage large-scale crowd events.
Washington, Missouri, firefighters and police officers will have four drones to work with. Emergency Management Agency Director Mark Skorina said the drones will be used for search and rescue missions. Skorina told the EMissourian.com that one of the drones features an infrared camera, which will help firefighters identify hot spots in a smoke-filled building. The drones will also be used in instances when an officer's life may be in danger. One public safety official in the city is an FAA-authorized drone pilot; several others are in the process of being trained. The city plans to cross-train those employees so the departments can help each other.