Dallas Police

Drones Added to the Dallas Police Department's Crime-Fighting Tools

Unmanned aircraft will not be used for general surveillance, but rather in life-and-death situations, a felony in progress, or when a warrant has been secured

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The Dallas Police Department publicly announced its Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Thursday and showed off its fleet of drones.

During a news conference Thursday, Dallas police said there were 15 specifically-designated missions where police expect to use the drones.

"Disaster response, missing persons, fugitive apprehension, building searches, investigating dangerous and armed subjects," are just a few of the uses mentioned by Maj. Mark Villarreal.

The department now has three certified Part 107 pilots and three aircraft, a small one for indoor missions, a larger one specifically for outdoor missions, and a midsized one.

"It has thermal capability as well as a zoom,” Dallas Police Sgt. Ross Stinson said of the midsized Mavic aircraft. “It is a good intermediate response so we can fly outdoors or indoors and it covers the best of both worlds."

The department first used the drones to survey the September apartment building explosion that injured eight people in Southern Dallas.

The Dallas Police Department publicly announced its Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Thursday. They are commonly called drones.

"We were able to assist DFD (Dallas Fire Department) in flying the interior to assess the situation to see if there were any further individuals that need to be rescued and also assess the situation to see if firefighters need to go in or not," Stinson said.

When it comes to police putting eyes in the sky, some people may worry about the aircraft being an invasion of privacy. Department regulations and even state law place restrictions on when and where police can and cannot use drones.

"We will not use this for surveillance,” Stinson said. “The only time we'll use this, like the major said, is whenever we have a warrant, life or death situation, or felony in progress. So, surveillance will not be an instance we'd use these."

Working through those details and others is why the department took so long to use drones. They started considering them back in 2015.

"We wanted to make sure we implemented in the correct way and technology has made huge leaps in the past couple of years,” Stinson said. “We finally felt like it was finally time to deploy it and we could do so in a very safe and thorough manner. Now is the time."

Dallas police said after a mission the only data saved must have legitimate training objectives or have evidence value. All other data will be destroyed within 90 days.

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