"Drones are coming to America to a police department near you."
That's the initial assessment of Catherine Crump, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, who narrates part of a short video clip that explores the Shadowhawk drone and its implications for domestic law enforcement here in the U.S.
The technology is useful, but poses significant privacy risks."Drones have very powerful cameras attached to them," Crump says, "they can see a lot more than the naked eye." In fact, they can even see through walls with FLIR thermal imaging technology.
Crump believes one of the most alarming prospects is that police drones won't just have cameras on them, but will also be armed with non-lethal weapons. As can be seen in these photos from Vanguard Defense Industries, the Shadowhawk platform is sturdy enough to be fitted with a variety of "less lethal" munitions.
Below is the video with some explanation of the drone's implications for the U.S. Homeland, courtesy of The Daily:
Randy McDaniel, Chief Deputy of the Montgomery County, Texas Sheriff's Office, also weighs in on the Shadowhawk drones in the clip. "We were able to purchase a UAV to use here at the Sheriff's Office," McDaniel says.
Instead of the ACLU's sweeping privacy and civil liberties concerns, McDaniel focuses in on the benefits of drones for law enforcement. Shadowhawk drones armed with an array of non-lethal force options--including impact rounds, chemical munition rounds, and tasers-- could save lives in McDaniel's opinion.
Deputy McDaniel points out that these are technologies "law enforcement utilizes day in and day out" already.
"If it is developed to the extent that we are guaranteed the accuracy, it is certainly something that we could look at, if I can give our swat teams a tool to save their lives, that's what we are going to do," McDaniel said.
The ACLU's Crump, on the other hand, believes that an officer on the ground will always have a better sense of the situation, and seems to caution against any police department going beyond surveillance drones to an armed aerial platform.
Here is a longer video clip of the Shadowhawk police drone in action, courtesy of Vanguard Industries:
But while a debate rages over police departments using drones, it should be noted that the private use of drones is on the rise. As The Blaze's Liz Klimas noted last month, "drones have been used by the media to capture aerial footage of Russian protests and riots in Poland" and a "civilian drone operated in Texas recently spotted a meat packing plant violating laws by dumping animal products into a local stream."