Four police agencies in Arkansas have joined the growing ranks of law enforcement soaring into the unmanned skies.
According to a report on ArkansasOnline, the North Little Rock Police Department, Pulaski County sheriff’s office, Sherwood police and Benton County sheriff’s office recently purchased drones and have trained or are seeking FAA-approved training for officer pilots.
“It’s a lot cheaper to get a drone up in the air than it is to get a helicopter and fly over,” Pulaski County sheriff’s Capt. Mark Swagerty said. He and three other officers are seeking a license to fly a DJI Mavic Pro, a $1,300 quadcopter. A few months ago, the small Texas town of Midlothian also purchased a Mavic.
North Little Rock now owns five drones—four Mavic Pro’s as well as a DJI Matrice 210 ($8,999) — using just over $19,000 in money seized through asset forfeiture in criminal cases. The department plans to license six officers.
The M210 offers multiple payload configurations – q single downward facing gimbal mount, two parallel downward-facing gimbal mounts or an upward-facing gimbal mount. The model also boasts additional connectivity ports to support third party sensors and accessories.
“It looks like Star Wars,” North Little Rock police Lt. Jim Scott said in describing the DJI models aloft.
Indeed, the Drone Force is strong for Arkansas public-safety agencies. ArkansasOnline reports at least 10 drone programs. A recent industry report speculates that government spending on drone technology could more than double in eight years. The report, released by Ohio-based Freedonia Group, predicts spending will leap from $100 million to $250 million by 2025 with federal spending alone accounting for $170 million in new drone purchases.
- Other examples: In Daytona Beach, top-flight drone university Embry-Riddle announced a training program for local police in August set to launch at the end of 2017. “Anything we can get to protect our citizens and our visitors, to keep them safe, we’re going to do,” Daytona Beach Police Chief Craig Capri said during a press conference.
- In Liberty, Texas, police used a drone to record imagery of a murder scene to assist the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office last year. The body of a local woman was found in August 2016 — four days later, police deployed a drone to take photos of the scene to be used in the trial of suspect Gerard Dante Simmons.