SPD insists drones won’t be used for spying

Apr 24, 2012, 12:18 PM | Updated: 2:11 pm

Seattle Police will begin testing an unmanned aircraft similar to this one, but insists the drone w...

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.

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SPD insists drones won’t be used for spying