Seattle Police Drone Looks Like a Toy, Raises Privacy Issues


The Seattle Police Department’s drone doesn’t look like much of a threat in person–it looks like a toy, says the Seattle Times. Officer Reuben Omelanchuk demonstrated how the unmanned aerial vehicle hovers and flies. “It’s very fun,” said Omelanchuk, one of two officers trained to fly the vehicles. “But doing it safely can be stressful at times.” The 3.5 pound Draganflyer X6 Helicopter Tech cost $41,000 and is operated with a handheld controller and two joysticks. It has cameras that take still pictures, videos, and infrared shots that can be viewed live, but it has a battery life of less than 10 minutes. It can’t carry anything that weighs more than 35 ounces. It can’t be flown around people or over crowds.

The approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to operate the drone has raised issues about privacy, the use of technology in law enforcement and the alleged militarization of police work. The American Civil Liberties Union says current laws are inadequate to safeguard citizen privacy. The proposed use of drones in Seattle should prompt city leaders to draft policies and procedures that set strict guidelines on when and how the vehicles can be used, what information will be gathered, with whom it will be shared and how long it will be stored, said the ACLU’s Doug Honig.

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