CSI Drones to be Used to Assist Police
A recently launched trial has seen the introduction of drones to assist police with assessing the damage of road traffic accidents and to look for missing people which will, in the process, alleviate the cost of sending out expensive police helicopters. Are drones however a potential invasion of privacy?
Send in the Drones
Pilot schemes spanning the country have recently been assisting with police activities in Warwickshire, including taking aerial photographs of road traffic accidents. In Bolton they have been used to attempt to find missing persons and in Dorset they have been deployed to take photos of crime scenes which are difficult to access.
The trialled use of drones by companies like Amazon originally sparked debate on the internet last year regarding privacy and whether or not widespread use of drones is against our human rights and privacy laws. Given that no matter what the uses of drones are, a camera is required onboard for the pilot to know where it is. This is the main catalyst of privacy unrest.
Drone usage is on the rise, echoing their now widespread use in the United States and it is not only law enforcement where there use is common. They are also being utilised for humanitarian circumstances and the aforementioned consumer trials. Currently there are no laws against owning drones, although breaches of privacy using one is still a criminal offence. It is this element of drone use that has put the trials under some scrutiny.
A Breach of Trust?
The main case against using drones in law enforcement comes from the concern that, while authorities can promise not to utilise drone cameras on law abiding civilians, there is no way to regulate their use and no way to ensure the trust would be honoured. Some private drone owners have already, thus far, managed to break privacy laws by escaping paying-to-watch sporting events and getting themselves arrested for flying near hospital windows.
While these events have been carried out by members of the general public, the secretive nature by which crime investigation takes place could potentially veil intentions behind filming.
Drones can catch amazing spectacles
Public unrest is a major deterrent to using drones and while they can capture awe inspiring footage (see above) to share with many people, they can also have a sinister side. With no laws stopping anyone from owning a drone, it is currently very easy to use them as a vicarious way of breaching privacy, while being difficult to be caught doing so. Similar issues include flying above private land and endangering airspace like flying near airports.
Off Road Specialists
The case for using police drones lies in their ability to bypass the biggest problem with incidents like road traffic accidents, which is accessing the scene. When police need to react quickly to a situation and plan around it, such as diverting traffic, a drone can fly right over any developing queues, giving the police a head-start in scoping out the scene. Likewise, when a situation, such as reporting a missing person arises, a drone can instantly begin scouring the area and is not only quicker than a police helicopter to launch, but far cheaper too.
The need to react swiftly to some investigations is vital to save lives and prevent crime. Drones definitely fit the bill to do this. A more discreet pair of eyes than a loud police helicopter, a drone could be the edge authorities need when chasing down potential crime suspects without them realising they are being monitored.
The benefits of having the potential to better survey crime and serious incidents, matched with the reduced running cost and fewer specialists needed to pilot a drone, could be a scheme backed by the Government who are currently looking to make budgeting cuts without putting jobs at risk. Flying numerous drones at once could help spread a police force’s reach within their local community, as small one to two man teams piloting multiple drones could all be focussing on different investigations.
With drones already participating in other public services, like disaster relief and successful trials participating in search and rescue operations, the potential of using them to assist with not only the police but the emergency services is promising. The benefits could outweigh the downsides, but until thorough testing has been concluded we cannot be truly sure just how effective drones can be in assisting cases of missing people, road accidents and pursuing criminals.
Potential Injury Risks?
Given their remote nature and more than nominal weight, there are potential safety risks involved in drone flight alongside privacy concerns. It’s common knowledge that like other aviation technology, factors such as high winds and bad weather could heavily disrupt a flight or worse cause a drone to fall from the sky.
Likewise, there have been problems also with drone electronics that can also force them from their flight path; with the weight and velocity of even a short fall they have potential to do serious damage if a person is struck. The technology is still relatively new but developing quickly. With development come bugs and new mechanical failures that field testing and user feedback will need to address. While this happens however it does open the risk of drones striking bystanders.
Of course, while in the trial phases, the chances of being injured by a drone is limited. However, being struck by a drone, quad copter or other object being controlled by a user is claimable as a result of negligent flying, not keeping it in the air a safe distance away from others. If you suffer from this situation please get in touch on 0808 278 4382 or by emailing [email protected] for information. We deal with a vast range of personal injury claims; having had over 20 years of dedicated injury law experience we have an experienced team of experts ready to help you.
Feel free to get in touch (we’re open from 8am – 9pm every day) for any injuries suffered negligently. When it comes to drones falling from the sky however, rest assured that currently a very small number are in use with the potential to cause injury, letting you go for a walk without needing to watch your step!
Drones have the ability to assess car accident scenes right after impact