Arlington police seek permission to buy unmanned aircraft

By Susan Schrock

The Arlington Police Department is seeking City Council approval tonight to use just over $202,000 in federal grant funding to purchase two small unmanned aircraft.

The aircraft, known as Leptron Avengers, are battery-operated helicopters designed to take high-resolution video and photos and that can be equipped with night-vision cameras or thermal-imaging equipment.

The city, working with the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Justice Department, is participating in a national evaluation program to help develop training and equipment standards for agencies to use the aircraft as crime-fighting tools.

Arlington police tested a few different unmanned aircraft systems this year but favored the Leptron Avenger, an 11-pound, 58-inch electric helicopter that can fly up to 40 mph, said police spokeswoman Tiara Ellis Richard said. The devices, operated by remote control, are able to a automatically return to their starting point if they lose communication with the remote control.

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