Let’s talk about drones. For some, these buzzing remote-controlled aircraft invoke fears of everything from privacy invasion to airplane crashes. But there’s another, softer side to drones. The one that wants to help you. Well, that is, unless you’re a criminal.
Ensenada is a city in Mexico that’s struggled, like many communities, to rein in criminal activity. Now Wired is reporting that Ensenada has implemented a new program that uses drones to help local police patrol – and it’s working so well that the city has seen a 30 percent drop in home robberies and a 10 percent drop in crime overall.
A city the size of Ensenada – which has about half a million people – would need no more than a dozen drones for complete coverage, though right now they just have one in service. It's sent out about 25 times per day and targets mostly areas with high volumes of 911 calls. The idea is to send the drone as soon as the call is made, so they’re onsite quick enough to give officers in pursuit some preliminary information – including where the suspect is or is heading.
A California company called Cape is credited with automating much of this drone activity and can take the contraptions from takeoff to landing, making them truly driverless. Police have access to streaming video from the drone and are able to grab it from their office or mobile device at any time. The Ensenada project has led to an additional 500 arrests that the city credits to just one lone wolf: the DJI Inspire 1 Quadcopter.
The Wired report on Ensenada comes at an interesting time for drones in the U.S. – science advisors to the U.S. government recently went on record saying the FAA is too tough on drones in regulating them in the same way they do larger, manned aircraft.
It sounds like the agency is already working to loosen the reigns a bit, and is reportedly working on an emergency response pilot project with the city of San Diego. While they’re not releasing a ton of detail just yet on what that might entail, it does possibly foreshadow a focus on public projects where drones can be extremely helpful in keeping citizens safe.