FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
St. Louis Police Chief Wants Drones
St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson wrote to the Federal Aviation Administration as a first step request for drones in St. Louis. Dotson wants to pay for drone use with taxpayer dollars and donations.
Privacy advocates object:
“This is a significant expansion of government surveillance,” complained Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of ACLU of Eastern Missouri. “Our laws have not kept up with our privacy rights. Our Fourth Amendment privacy rights aren’t safe from unreasonable search and seizure when you’re looking at drones.”
Dotson said drones are not capable of anything that helicopters don’t already do — or that existing laws don’t already protect.
Except due process.
Drones can cost anywhere from $60,000 – $300,000 apiece, incredibly expensive for their limitations. For instance, FAA restrictions require that they must always remain within sight of their operator and spotter (who must have same credentials), fly no higher than 400 feet off the ground, only fly during the day, and due to fuel size can only remain in flight for about an hour.
A few police departments have are using drones, but they’re not impressing users:
The Mesa County Sheriff’s Office in Colorado was one of the first to get FAA approval, and started using drones in 2009, said Benjamin Miller, its program manager.
Private companies provided two battery-operated drones for free that he said otherwise would have cost about $50,000 combined. He said they cost about $25 an hour to operate. (Frisz said a helicopter costs about $250 an hour.) One of Mesa County’s drones can fly for about 15 minutes, the other about an hour. Each can fit in a backpack.
Miller said there seems like a lot of fuss for not a lot of technology. “At the end of the day, you’re going to pull a radio-controlled toy out of a box that can fly for 15 minutes, sometimes not even above the trees,” Miller said. “I found myself thinking, ‘Why in the world am I working with FAA for this?’”
There is an itch to scratch and while the solution of better policies, which shapes societal maintenance and break down, is currently out of the question, drones hardly seem even a temporary remedy.