Does the police have drones that are armed

Will the police soon use armed drones too?

The first US police authorities have obtained permits to use drones, including those that could be equipped with weapons

It is not surprising that a police unit in Houston, namely the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office in Conroe, is now buying a drone. After the military, many police authorities all over the world will equip themselves with this to monitor places, pursue suspects or perpetrators and to take pictures unnoticed for taking evidence.

So far, however, only a few police authorities in the USA have applied for a permit from the FAA, for example those of Palm Bay in Florida, the police in Miami or New York. How many permits have been issued is not yet known, but it is known that police authorities are urging the FAA to issue permits. However, the authority is hesitant due to safety concerns (collision with other aircraft, crash due to breakdowns). Drones have long been used to monitor the border with Mexico and Canada.

The Sheriff's Office invested the handsome sum of US $ 300,000 and recently bought a ShadowHawk drone, a 16 kg, 2.4 meter long helicopter equipped with an optical camera and an infrared camera. The drone can fly remotely or program-controlled for up to three hours at a top speed of 112 km / h and, in contrast to larger helicopters, should not be audible at an altitude of 200 meters, i.e. it should allow secret surveillance or tracking.

Sheriff Tommy Gage said at the launch of the drone in late October that it could be used to catch criminals fleeing the police or to assess a place where police officers could expect an armed criminal. They also want to monitor drug trafficking, support the fight against forest fires or look for missing people. The drone would only be used against criminals, he assured, that the privacy of citizens would not be invaded.

Even taking pictures of private rooms through the windows or monitoring a garden or courtyard can of course lead to legal problems, because this would actually require a judicial order. And you will not be able to avoid intruding into the privacy of bystanders during surveillance or prosecution. During tests with drones carried out by the Houston Police Department in 2007, controversy arose over the possible violation of civil rights, and the mayor stopped the experiments for the time being. But the sheriff makes sure you're doing the right thing.

It is interesting, however, that the drone, which is otherwise used by the military, can not only be equipped with cameras, but also with weapons. Michael Buscher of the manufacturer Vanguard Defense Industries said it was the first ShadowHawk drone to be bought by a police department. And he also made it clear that the drone can be equipped with very different devices weighing up to 10 kg, including grenade launchers or automatic rifles. For the police, weapons would not be considered lethal systems, he said. One thinks, for example, of Taser shock weapons or rifles that fire "bean bags", that is, bags filled with shot. With electric shock weapons you can attack someone from an airplane and incapacitate them.

Sheriff Gage tried to downplay the opportunity and said the drone would not be armed with weapons for the time being. What seems more disturbing, however, is that they are used for speed control. At least he definitely replied that the drone would be used for this. If you wanted to use a drone only for surveillance purposes, then the police authorities could have resorted to smaller, much cheaper systems. Therefore, one should secretly expect to arm the ShadowHawk with weapons on occasion or in the future. The so-called non-lethal or less lethal weapons could act as a bridge in order to then equip them with lethal weapons. After all, the same argument applies to the police as to the military, namely that the use of drones in dangerous situations no longer endangers personnel. (Florian Rötzer)

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