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Eyes in the Sky: How Law Enforcement Uses Unmanned Aircraft Systems

NCJ Number
Date Published
May 2016
0 pages
This video describes how the Mesa County Sheriff's Office (Colorado) is using unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in order to perform some law enforcement tasks more effectively, challenges some of the myths about the capabilities and uses of UAS in law enforcement work, and outlines steps law enforcement agencies should take when assessing and implementing the installation of a UAS system.
The Mesa County Sheriff's Office uses its UAS system for crime-scene and traffic-accident investigations. UAS data are helpful in establishing distance at crime and traffic-accident scenes and in conducting search and rescue operations. Areas to be photographed are programmed into the UAS prior to beginning its flight. After the flight, photos taken by the UAS can be combined to produce topographical models of the programmed areas to establish distances. There are a number of myths associated with law enforcement agencies' use of a UAS system. They are not used to conduct surveillance for detecting crimes as they occur, and they are not capable of searching houses and buildings to observe and record what is happening inside. Neither are they armed with weaponry. Mesa County has strict guidelines for the lawful use of a UAS system. The video discusses the research, planning, and training necessary for the efficient and effective implementation and use of a law enforcement UAS system.

Date Published: May 1, 2016