In 2011, the Miami-Dade Police Department received the first permit in Florida from the Federal Aviation Administration to operate unarmed drones as local law enforcement. The department was ready to unleash these drones earlier this year, but just what are they being used for? According to a video that's surfaced recently, there's talk at least one was spying on a beach party. But is that true?
The YouTube video raises the question of whether the drones are being used to monitor a Memorial Day weekend party on Miami beach. In the video, a party-goer spots the drone and says, "That's the police."
Is it, though? As previous media reports on the law enforcement drones note, such as one by the Miami New Times, the Miami drones are generally reserved for more drastic or potentially dangerous situations where monitoring with technology would be safer:
"We pretty much have to wait for a situation where we've got a shooter with a long rifle in a standoff," says Sgt. Andrew Cohen, of the MDPD's aviation unit. "That's really the optimal situation we have to use this technology."
Cohen said in a separate occasion to NBC Miami that the drones would not be "sneaking up on someone" and only used in limited situations.
Additionally, the two drones acquired by the city through a 2009 grant -- a system worth $200,000 -- have been described as looking like an office wastebasket. The drone seen in the recent YouTube video appears slightly different, which is not to say it is or isn't one used by law enforcement, but that it should be noted private citizens could have been the ones operating it. One commenter even says he thinks it is a private "hobby quadcopter." That's certainly possible, as The Blaze has also reported on instances where the media has used drones to capture aerial footage. and private use is on the rise.
With more law enforcement units investing in drone technology, the FAA was tasked this year to create new rules that would open up the sky by 2015 for more military, private and civilian drone use.
Watch this footage of the Miami-Dade Police Department testing out its drones:
Fox News also reported today about the hacking potential some drone systems carry with them. It stated "with the right equipment, anyone can take control of a GPS-guided drone and make it do anything they want it to."
Here is video footage of what was allegedly a police drone taken over a Memorial Day beach party in Miami (Note: The drone makes about a short appearance at 3:30 into the clip. The majority of the clip focuses on bikini-clad partygoers and fancy cars cruising the strip):
Update: Miami New Times reported the police department spokesperson saying the drone seen hovering over the beach was not of the MDPD. The spokesperson even said they aren't authorized to fly over a crowd of people like that and it would have been grounds for them to lose their certification.