A single police drone has seriously impacted crime in a Mexican city

Drones are finding a place in so many industries lately that it’s not much of a surprise that police departments have also been testing the technology for crime-fighting operations.

The city of Ensenada in Mexico, for example, has recently achieved positive results using just a single quadcopter, Wired reported this week. The flying machine has helped to cut overall crime in the city by as much as 10 percent, including a 30-percent drop in burglaries.

Cops in Ensenada, located a couple of hours south of the U.S. border, have been using DJI’s Inspire 1 quadcopter for the last four months and so far the eye in the sky has helped them to make a whopping 500 arrests.

The police department’s drone has been sent skyward mostly in response to emergency calls from the public, and is currently flying around 25 missions a day. Once it’s up in the air, any authorized officer can tap into the drone camera’s feed, whether they’re out with the camera or sitting at their desk back at base.

The software powering the drone has been created by a California firm called Cape. CEO Chris Rittler says the remotely controlled copter can often beat car-based officers to a crime scene, allowing them to survey a scene prior to arrival and track a suspect’s movements if one is identified. Rittler believes that for a city the size of Ensenada — about half a million people — you’d need no more than 12 quadcopters to cover the area in its entirety. Certainly, their versatility makes them a more powerful monitoring tool than fixed security cameras, and more cost-effective to operate than helicopters with on-board cameras.

Drones for law enforcement

Law enforcement in a number of countries are steadily finding ways to incorporate drone technology into their daily operations. In the U.K., for example, Devon and Cornwall Police, and neighboring Dorset Police, teamed up in 2017 to launch a drone unit for assistance 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. Like in Ensenada, the unit uses DJI’s Inspire drone equipped with powerful thermal imaging and zoom cameras.

In France, meanwhile, traffic cops have been using drones to catch speeding drivers.

Proving their use in emergency situations, a drone recently helped rescuers save a resident from an encroaching lava flow on the island of Hawaii, while in the U.K. recently, the technology was used to help find a car crash victim who’d strayed from his vehicle.

In what looks to have been a significant move, DJI recently teamed up with connected law enforcement company Axon to market DJI drones to law enforcement agencies around the world.

The Axon Air program will promote DJI’s Phantom 4 Pro and Matrice 210 drones for law enforcement work, while also offering information about how the technology can be used to tackle crime or help in other related operations.

Looking ahead, Amazon envisages police using mini drones that travel around with officers and assist them with their work, though admittedly such a scenario still seems a ways off.

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