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AUVSI: Police find new roles for small UAVs

A two-year experiment by a North Dakota police agency has identified several key roles that unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) can play in routine law enforcement operations.

The Grand Forks Sherriffs Department has accumulated about 100 flight hours and 200h in simulations with four UAVs – the AeroViornment Raven and Qube and the Draganfly X6 and XR3S, says Alan Frazier, a retired officer and now adjunct professor at the University of North Dakota.

Frazier expects police agencies to operate UAVs in the same manner as canine units today, in which a small group of officers are specially trained and deploy on patrols with a UAV, he says.

“That’s how I believe they are ultimately going to be deployed,” Frazier says. “Within five years or so we’ll start seeing the ubiquitous use of UAS in that kind of scenario.”

There are limitations, however. Frazier estimates that a small UAV can perform about one-third of the mission of a manned helicopter. Only larger aircraft – such as a General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Predator – can carry out operations that call for a high altitude and speed, like following a car chase.