Los Angeles, CA—Let me be the first to say that I find the increasing militarization and spying by police repugnant. Government at every level is out-of-control.
Today there is a demonstration in progress at City Hall protesting the use of two small multi-rotor drones in possession of the LAPD. This group is uninformed and unfamiliar with the limitations of these devices also called unmanned aerial vehicles.
I suspect these demonstrators are confusing these drones with the much larger, multi-million dollar weaponized drones used by or military in combat zones.
However there are substantial benefits of our first responders using multi-rotor drones to deal with instances such as common disasters, searches for lost people and potentially dangerous animals on the loose in neighborhoods. The diminutive drones can more safely enter tighter spaces than any helicopter.
As a camera drone pilot, former cop and licensed private investigator let me be the first to say the drones just are not helpful for spying.
The drones don’t stay in the air for more than 20 minutes because of battery limitations and they can only carry smaller cameras.
Getting identifiable pictures of people with those drones is nearly impossible unless the drone is within a few yards of it’s target.
Capturing conversations is another impossibility because of the sound of the motors and prop wash.
Conventional helicopters and the technology of special cameras and other devices is a far superior surveillance tool. The little multi-rotor drones simply can’t carry the weight of that kind of equipment.
In the case of a fire, earthquake, tsunami, floods or any natural disaster the drone are already proven lifesavers. Victims needing rescue can be located. Damage surveys can be made so that needed resources can be quickly allocated.
The benefits of first responders being able to deploy drones in emergency situations far outweigh their possible abuse.
Here is drone video of a recent flood: