Drone technology is not a new tool for law enforcement, but its use in certain situations continues to evolve.
On Wednesday officers in North Texas for the first Texas Intelligence, Cyber, & Counterterrorism Conference got a first-hand look at how drones can assist officers responding to an active shooter situation.
Inside the Midlothian Conference Center officers pursued a mock suspect down a long hallway. The corridor offers a litany of blind corners and hiding spots.
That is difficult terrain for officers to navigate quickly and safely, but not an unmanned drone.
"It gets an eye out in front of them that can move a little faster than them. They can hang back, and I can get in and around corners and check corners, rather than them having to physically get to that corner and look around that corner to find that shooter," said Chief Wayne Baker, of the Joshua Fire Department.
Baker flew the drone during the drill. It hovered just a few feet in front of the SWAT officers before zipping down the corridor. The 4K camera attached to it provides real-time intelligence to officers.
"We may not even have to get the officers in the building. The drone can go through, scout the building prior to officers going in," Baker said. "Everything in my job is about saving lives, and this has just extremely enhanced my ability to do that. We went from a list of three or four different things we thought we would use them for, and now we have a several-page list of what we have used them on."
For SWAT officers drones can provide peace of mind during what can sometimes be a life or death situation.
"It's great, just safety overall," said Tim Hicks, with the Midlothian Police Department. "It's safety for us, safety for the suspects as well. Our job is to end these situations as safe as we can. We don't want to hurt anybody. We certainly don't want to get hurt, and drones help with that."