Police apologize for not keeping council in loop on new drone

Lynn Thompson of the Seattle Times reports the first of perhaps many retorts to local Police units in America wishing to start flying UAS.

An assistant Seattle police chief apologized to City Council members Wednesday for not keeping them informed about the department’s plans to use aerial drones.

City leaders and the public were caught by surprise last week when the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Washington raised questions about the department’s planned use of two unmanned aerial vehicles it received in 2010 under a federal homeland-security grant.


For those already flying unmanned aircraft the Police chiefs stated expectations of what the platform can achieve are also a little worrying.

Paul McDonagh assistant chief for operations gave the example of last weekend’s incident involving Peter Keller, a survivalist and double-murder suspect, holed up in a bunker on a steep mountain hillside. He said a drone could have gotten closer faster than officers on the scene who waited through the night out of concerns that Keller was heavily armed. The next day, officers discovered Keller had fatally shot himself.

He said a drone could also be used to determine whether a suspect was in an apartment or had hostages.

Just how useful is a platform that can only be used within line of sight of the operator for less than 15 minutes?

Five minutes to position, five minutes to fly back so that’s 5 minutes of looking all within view of whoever it is they are looking at.

To date no Police service that has experimented with multicopters to our knowledge has continued using them.

Lets hope councillors ensure their local Police departments undertake due diligence when  looking for platforms and learn lessons from other parts of the world. Of course they could look at the stories we have run in one  eBook!