In 2018, technology futurist Gray Scott predicted that, within in the next five years, drones are going to be very common everywhere in the U.S. Police surveillance via drones will be the norm, despite detractors who call it an intrusion of privacy. Gartner has predicted that drone sales will generate $11.2 billion in revenue by 2020.

Before we explore why drones are the future, it is important to understand how drones can affect and aid police work.

Drones have been used for surveillance to support missions for a few years now. They offer unprecedented remote access to the skies and to places where it’s hard or dangerous to go. They are actively used in defense missions, National Weather Service tracking, traffic management programs, emergency and disaster management programs, and in federal law enforcement work.

Drones have the potential to dramatically change the way police officers do their jobs and help to improve and protect lives. When it comes to surveillance, each drone can do the job of 20 officers.

In an at-risk neighborhood, this could be effective for crime prevention and saving officers' lives. As more departments look to utilize the aerial surveillance and drone, some areas that will be impacted in the near future include:

  • Hostage Negotiation
  • Bomb Investigation
  • Missing Persons
  • Criminal Surveillance and Pursuit
  • Drug Interdiction
  • Crime Scene Analysis

For most departments, surveillance of highly frequented locations in cities like malls, downtown areas, and sensitive areas like schools and college campuses is of paramount importance. Police can now use aerial data to map these highly frequented areas and prepare better for emergency situations. During major traffic accidents, drones can provide valuable information by visualizing the magnitude of the accident and its impact on traffic flow.

Tech companies in the space are actively working on drone surveillance technology to aid the police in their work. FLYMOTION, a Tampa-based tech company, offers drone surveillance by combining high-flying skill with complex on-the-ground technology and communication.

It has worked with local police departments as well as the U.S. Department of Defense to utilize drone technology to help people and catch suspects. Techniques like these are especially useful for departments that do not have an aviation unit.

Chula Vista (California) Police Department is going a step further and is trying to use drones to be first responders. Since the launch of the program in October 2018, CVPD has responded to over 200 incidents via drones.

Cameras are controlled on rooftops by a certified FAA pilot and drones are manned by a teleoperator on the ground. This allows the responding officers to see everything in real time through an app. Like any new project, this is going through teething problems, but when it matures, the drone technology could clearly be a game-changer for law enforcement.