As drone technology continues to improve, an increasing number of law enforcement agencies are finding uses for the diminutive flying machines in their everyday work.
And it’s saving people’s lives.
Take this recent case in the U.K. Following overnight reports of a man wandering away from a flipped car on an isolated road south of Grimsby some 130 miles north of London, the local police department deployed its drone to search for the driver.
The moment our #thermal #drone found a hypothermic man in a 6’ deep ditch 160m from his crashed car in the pitch dark tonight. Casualty conveyed to hospital. Thanks to @WoldsSgt for the request that may well have saved his life. pic.twitter.com/LwrPnBVj6H
— Lincs Police Drones (@lincsCOPter) February 25, 2018
It was a freezing cold evening, and the cops knew that if they couldn’t find the man quickly, he could die from hypothermia.
While some officers searched the immediate area on foot, the drone flew around the crash site to see if its thermal imaging camera could pinpoint the vehicle’s owner.
After a short while, the drone pilot located the man about 160 meters from the car and directed officers to his precise position. He was found “unconscious and hypothermic” in a six-foot-deep ditch, and would likely have died but for the search team’s quick work, aided by the drone and its thermal imaging camera.
Without drone technology, the cops could have received help from the U.K.’s National Police Air Service, but the quadcopter was likely able to reach the scene far more quickly, and at a fraction of the cost of a helicopter.
Police in the U.K. are making growing use of drones for their work. Another police department in the south of the country in 2017 became the first to launch a 24-hour drone unit. The equipment currently includes DJI Inspire drones with powerful thermal imaging and zoom cameras attached. DJI’s smaller Mavic drone is also part of its equipment. The gear is used for a range of jobs, including helping with missing person searches, gathering images from crime scenes and major traffic accidents, and taking part in coastal and woodland searches to fight wildlife crime.
In the southwest of France, police are using the remotely controlled flying machines to catch dangerous drivers, while cops in Japan have them on standby to catch rogue drones flying in restricted airspace.
In the U.S., meanwhile, around 350 agencies, among them police and fire departments, have incorporated the technology into their work as of 2017. Uses include search and rescue, investigating active shooters and suspects, crime scene analysis, surveillance, and crowd monitoring.