Friday chat: Should police departments have drones?

Drones promise to become a common tool for local police and sheriff’s departments across the country. The potential uses include tracking down fleeing suspects, searching for lost hikers, taking crime scene photographs and even gathering evidence for criminal prosecutions.

Earlier this year, the federal government opened the door wide to the domestic, non-military use of unmanned aircraft. And since then, people have been scrambling to figure out who will use them and how. We’ve got a story here that explores some of these issues, part of our latest Ground Level project, “The Price of Safety.”

More drones in the sky raises questions about airspace safety and personal privacy. While it’s true that police already can fly a piloted airplane over a house and view the rooftop and yard, that sort of observation becomes easier and potentially more ubiquitous with the use of drones.

We’re hosting an online conversation here Friday at 11:30 (CT) where we’ll discuss these issues and more. How will police use drones? What are the complications involved?

The panelists will include Alan Frazier, assistant professor at the John. D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences at the University of North Dakota; Jennifer Lynch, staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Ben Miller, unmanned aerial systems director at the Mesa County (Colorado) Sheriff’s Department.

Please join us for the discussion, which will run until noon, and feel free to submit questions or comments. If you can’t make it, the conversation will be archived and available on the chat page for future viewing.

  • Robert

    Another new technology is License Plate Reader, and the current concern is that law enforcement folks collect information on the movement and habits of law-abiding people, and retain it for a very long time. Currently no law affects how & why LPR data is gathered. Are we going down a similar unwise path with the digital data generated by local police drone surveillance of law-abiding people? Currently no laws regulate most drone-gathered data.