It looks like a model plane, costs $30,000, and could pay for itself in its first hour of use. Law-enforcement officials in Los Angeles County say it is the future of policing, reports the Christian Science Monitor. They are taking about drones, three-feet-long, remote-controlled airplanes with tiny video cameras that can fit in a four-inch-diameter tube – and thus in a car trunk, or over the shoulder like a quiver of arrows. The tiny drone will be able to provide law enforcement officers with a bird’s-eye view of just about anything. It’s intended to find lost hikers, skiers, surfers, children, elders, and more. It can also be used in hostage situations and violent standoffs and to surveil fleeing crime suspects.
Privacy advocates worry that a drone could peer too far into private lives because cameras could intrude on citizens through windows and into backyards. Law officers say it is more cost-effective than a helicopter. “The potential savings of this are astronomical compared to the high cost of owning, storing, and using the helicopters that we now use,” says Commander Sid Heal of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD). Helicopters cost between $600 to $1,200 per hour to operate, not including the number of needed personnel: usually at least three. Buying a helicopter can cost $2 million. Known as “SkySeers,” the drones were designed by Octatron, a subsidiary of Chang Industries, a defense contractor in southern California. A prototype has been in development for seven years.