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American Police Departments Implement Drone Aircrafts To The Fleet

[TRANSCRIPT] One hundred and twenty metres above the ground, an unmanned drone uses its heat seeking camera to help a policeman track down a suspect. A pilot on the ground is using a laptop and joystick to fly the drone by remote control. He directs his colleague in the search. The live video signal is coming from an aircraft called a Shadow Hawk which Deputy Chief Randy McDaniel of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s office says will be a powerful tool for all kinds of police work. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CHIEF DEPUTY SHERIFF, RANDY MCDANIEL, MONTGOMERY COUNTY, TEXAS, SAYING: “As a law enforcement agency, not only do we have to deal with criminal activities, we also have to go hunt for the missing child, the Alzheimer’s patient that has wandered off and, again we can take this drone and launch it and give us a greater capacity to be able to find those individuals.” Equipped with powerful cameras, GPS, and transmitting technology, the UAV can quietly hover 200 metres over a location – while sending its operators real-time video of the scene. McDaniel says the more they know about a crime scene ahead of time, the safer his officers will be. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CHIEF DEPUTY SHERIFF, RANDY MCDANIEL, MONTGOMERY COUNTY, TEXAS, SAYING: “The purpose of having the bird in the first place is to be able to protect my SWAT team. That is what it is all about, we are not about getting our SWAT team members hurt and if I have got some technology that I can utilise to provide for greater safety for them – we’re going to use it.” (SOUNDBITE) (English) DOTTY GRIFFITH, ACLU OF TEXAS, SAYING: “This is boys with their toys gone wild.” Dotty Griffith of the American Civil Liberties Union in Texas is not a fan of the drone. She says that apart from legitimate police work, it could also be used to spy on innocent citizens. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DOTTY GRIFFITH, ACLU OF TEXAS, SAYING: “We have concerns that technology is moving at a faster rate than our laws. And we think this technology gives police a lot of leeway for fishing expeditions, warrantless surveillance, and that there is just no checks and balances on the system at this point.” But McDaniel discounts the argument saying the drone will only be used in mission specific situations. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CHIEF DEPUTY SHERIFF, RANDY MCDANIEL, MONTGOMERY COUNTY, TEXAS, SAYING: “Yes, we can read a license plate from 400 feet in the air. Does that help us? Absolutely. It helps us identify suspects and the vehicles that they are in because we may not have someone close enough to come in and apprehend the suspect.” Police departments in both Miami and Houston have been working with the Federal Aviation Administration to get clearance for drone flights. Police forces in the UK have been using drone technology for surveillance operations since early last year. McDaniel says American cities will inevitably follow suit. Ben Gruber, Reuters.

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