Weaponized Police Drones Are Coming

Weaponized Police Drones Are Coming

By Dee Wampler

Small and unmanned aerial drones are being used by police and firefighters as a useful new tool with at least 347 agencies in 43 states now flying them. Drone deployment is an emerging technology, unheard of 10 years ago, and more and more police agencies are using the “flying robots” each year.


The leading states are Texas, California, Alabama, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania that have aerial vehicles operated by police, sheriffs, emergency response, and fire departments.  In most law enforcement scenarios, the drones are being used for traffic management or crime-scene photography.  But they can also be used for search and rescue, hazardous material spills, aerial viewing of fires, and more and more use in coming years.[2]

It’s not just police that have the ability to hover over a house.  The Federal Aviation Administration estimated by April 2017, that the consumer market with more than triple by 2021 with 3.5 million drones in use, up from about 1.1 million currently.

The Noble County Indiana Sheriff used a drone to locate a suspect in a pursuit; Toledo, OH Police Department used its drone to assist firefighters at a warehouse fire; Cecil County Maryland Sheriff used a drone to find $400,000 worth of stolen construction equipment; Bossier Parish Louisiana Sheriff used a drone to locate three teenage runaways; Rialto California Fire Department used a drone to identify illegal fireworks displays; Alton Illinois Highway Patrol used a drone to reconstruct a scene of a car accident; and Linn Wisconsin Police Department used a drone equipped with thermal imaging

More and more law enforcement agencies are considering the remote use of “unmanned aerial vehicles.”[3]  In the future, they may also be considered for “remote use of force.”  The question then concerns a person’s right “to be secure in their persons…against unreasonable…seizures.”[4]   Now is the time for the police to draw up “operational protocols” that may govern the use of drones that may be rigged to fire rubber bullets, tear-gas canisters, and electric-stun darts.  It’s only a matter of time before police, who may already use UAV’s for monitoring vehicle traffic or looking for lost children, begin using them for patrol and other purposes.

[1] Bard College, Center for the Study of the Drone, April 2017.

[2] Weaponized Police Drones are Coming, Criminal Law Reporter, Vol 101, #21, pg. 33.

[3] Michael T. Geary, Police Chief (May 2015).

[4] Graham vs. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989).

By | 2017-11-05T19:00:24+00:00 August 16th, 2017|Legal News|Comments Off on Weaponized Police Drones Are Coming

About the Author:

Dee Wampler
Dee Wampler has practiced law for 50 years has received many awards and honors. As Greene County’s youngest elected Prosecuting Attorney at the age of 29, Wampler’s reputation was quickly established as a leading trial attorney. Dee was an original organizer and first president Crimestoppers. Wampler has published over 250 articles for Law Enforcement Journals, and authored six books: Missouri Criminal Law Handbook; The Trial of Christ; The Myth of Separation Between Church and State; Standing on the Front Line; Defending Yourself Against Cops in Missouri, and other Strange Places; and One Nation Under God. His knowledge of criminal law and trial tactics is widely recognized.