Why Drones Are So Important to the Future of Police Work

Every now and again, law enforcement gets its hands on a tool that changes everything. The drone is one such tool. Law enforcement agencies from coast to coast are acquiring drones with greater frequency after discovering just how beneficial they are. Many a police chief is convinced that drones are critical to the future of police work.

CBS This Morning ran a story in early June (2019) showing more than two dozen law enforcement agencies training at a facility outside of Denver. Officers were being trained in ways to effectively deploy drones for both law enforcement and public safety applications. On the day news crews were there, officers were being put through a massive disaster response drill.

It is easy to see from that report just what drones can do for law enforcement. Seeing the mechanical wonders in action makes it clear that drones truly are a game-changer. And by the way, it’s not just the ability to fly that makes them so important. It is their ability to be fitted with all kinds of sensors.

Sensors, Data, and Law Enforcement

The practice of law enforcement has historically relied on the principle of data acquisition. Even before electronic technology was a thing, police investigators had to collect and analyze data to solve crimes. But data collection absent of technology was difficult and time consuming.

The advantage we have today is that data collection is so much more efficient. It’s more thorough as well. We can thank sensors for that.

A full range of sensors developed by companies like California-based Rock West Solutions give police agencies access to data they’ve never had before. Something as simple as a radar gun, a device that was not available during the postwar era, provides data that has transformed speed enforcement.

Today’s drones can be fitted with more advanced sensing equipment including gas and radiation detectors. They can be fitted with thermal imaging equipment that utilize specialized sensors to detect heat signatures. If there is a sensor police agencies would find useful, it can probably be fitted to a drone.

Going Where Humans Cannot

The value of drones and their advanced sensors boils down to the fact that they can go where humans cannot. As just one example, consider the horrific fire that struck Notre Dame earlier this year. As the famous cathedral burned, first responders put a drone in the air. That drone was fitted with a variety of sensors that allowed firefighters to search for hot spots even while the building was too dangerous to enter.

Imagine a potentially deadly incident unfolding in New York’s Holland Tunnel. A situation too volatile for police officers and firefighters could be handled by a drone instead. Data from a drone could be used to assess the situation before officials formulated their plan of attack.

Situational Awareness and Management

Drones are proving themselves tremendously helpful in all sorts of emergency situations. Where police work is concerned however, there is a strong emphasis on situational awareness and management. As the criminal element becomes more sophisticated and technology minded, police agencies need tools to better assess and manage situations. Drones are now a big part of that.

Moreover, the need for situational awareness and management only promises to become more critical in the future. Law enforcement agencies need every tool at their disposal to keep up with the criminals. Drones fitted with a range of sensors represent just one of those tools, but a tool that is critical to how law enforcement will do its work in the years to come.