The Daily Sheeple
May 17th, 2012
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“The Eyes of Texas are Upon You,” is the University of Texas’ Alma Mater and the meaning of the lyrics are that the state of Texas was watching and expecting the students to go out and do great things. This could all change as Drones will soon be taking to the skies over the Capital City of Austin, TX.
Drones may soon be flying over Austin crime scenes.
Officers spent the day in College Station learning how to use the technology.
At first glance, it looks like a child’s toy.
It’s actually an $80,000 military drone. There are 250 of these models being used in Afghanistan. Manufacturers of the unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs are now marketing them to law enforcement.
Members of the APD Technology Unit traveled to Texas A&M to learn how to use them.
The UAVs feed live video, which is accessible to any mobile device with Internet access. Officers want to begin deploying them at crime scenes.
“For instance if you had chased a person to a building you could get an aerial view,” said Lt. Pat Cochran. “Thing is when someone is hiding they have the drop on you. They know when you’re coming. You don’t know where they’re at.”
Currently officers call on the air unit for aerial searches with a department helicopter. If the pilots aren’t on duty, it can take them hours to get to work and take off.
Deploying a UAV takes minutes.
“It’s just a matter of putting the antenna on the roof of the car attaching the rotors and hitting the start button,” Cochran said.
The training took place at what’s called Disaster City. There are all sorts of catastrophe sites including a derailed train and several collapsed buildings. It’s where law enforcement can learn to use new technology in a realistic environment.
The Federal Aviation Administration has given those associated with the university’s robotics program, CRASAR, permission to fly drones there.
According to a recent study by the UK Daily Mail, Texas A&M is one of 63 launch sites in the US.
APD will apply to fly UAVs this September when the FAA lifts certain restrictions making it easier for law enforcement to get authorization.
A vendor wants Austin to be a year-long test site beginning in January 2013 at a cost of $1.
That may raise some privacy concerns which officers are prepared to address.
“These are reactive. Not proactive, reactive. They’re designed for short range, short fly time,” said Cochran.
Officers expect the FAA to limit the flights to a height of 200 feet with the restriction of always keeping the aircraft within view.
With a battery life of about 30 minutes, officers say flying it around the city would be impossible.
“I can promise you, APD is not in the business of spying on people,” said Sgt. Frank Dixon. “Don’t be afraid of technology it’s your friend.”
The Arlington Police Department currently has a drone program. DPS did use drones, but disbanded its program in 2010.