Louisville Police Dream Big Drone Dreams

police-droneWhen most police departments seek government funds for drone buys, we’re talking between $1,000 and $10,000. The Louisville Metro Police Department says “Go big or go home.”

Last week, Louisville Metro police Chief Steve Conrad asked the Metro Council’s budget committee for $80,000 to buy a high-end (but unnamed) model. The department wants a drone that boasts forward-looking infrared radar and real-time telemetry that would transmit footage directly to the department’s crisis center.

As with most police drone plans, the department wants to use the drone to provide imagery in hostage situations, natural disasters or hazardous waste spills.

“For the purposes they want it for, I think it’s excellent,” council member David James said. “It’ll provide observational capabilities they don’t have on the ground.” James added that he expected the budget request to get approval.

Louisville police have been investigating drone deployment since 2014. However, privacy concerns by members of the public have kept a lid on their efforts until now.

“We want to make sure there are really strong policies in place to ensure drones are used for the intended purposes and not for surveillance,” said Kate Miller, program director for the Kentucky ACLU, in an interview with the Louisville Journal-Courier.

“We don’t want to go somewhere if we don’t have a legal right to be there,” Sullivan said. “We are very sensitive to that,” Deputy Chief Michael Sullivan said.

The Bluegrass State is no stranger to drone issues. Recently, State Rep. Linda Belcher introduced a bill that would ban the use of drones for “harassment, voyeurism, video voyeurism and use to facilitate a burglary or trespassing.” The bill comes on the heels of a high-profile case in which a court exonerated a man after he shot down a UAV.

“The purpose is accountability, letting everyone know the expectations what you should be doing with drones and what she shouldn’t be,” Belcher added.

Meanwhile, State Rep. Diane St. Onge is introducing legislation that would outlaw drone weaponization and ensure police obtain a search warrant prior to any drone-related searches.

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