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SPD insists drones won't be used for spying

Seattle Police will begin testing an unmanned aircraft similar to this one, but insists the drone won't be used to violate any privacy rights. (image courtesy Draganfly Innovations Inc.)

The Seattle Police Department insists it won't be using new remote controlled aircraft to spy on people, despite concerns raised by the ACLU.

"The idea that this is going to be used to infringe on people's privacy, that is simply not the case," says Sgt. Sean Whitcomb.

The ACLU raised red flags about the drones after it was reported last week the SPD would be deploying several unmanned aircraft thanks to a grant funded by the Urban Areas Security initiative.

But Whitcomb says the department is working with the FAA and developing "appropriate policies."

Whitcomb says the drones will be used for situations like crime scene photography, missing person searches, and barricaded person scenarios.

"What is consistent here is that these are very static scenarios. You're not going to see the drone going from one end of downtown to the next following a police pursuit," Whitcomb says.

The drones will be limited to 400 feet in altitude and must remain in sight of the operator, much like a remote control toy airplane frequently seen at local parks.

"The idea is that it is very similar to the bomb robot that we have. It's just a remote control device this one happens to be aerial," Whitcomb says.

Whitcomb says the drones will inexpensively help with public safety and improve crime scene investigations. Currently, officers have to rent King County's Guardian One helicopter or even climb ladders or borrow a fire truck in order to get an aerial view.

About the Author

Josh Kerns is an award winning reporter on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM. He covers everything from May Day riots in Seattle to the latest Boeing news.


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