Police patrols in crime-prone regions in major cities have been expensive and risky. With this, it can be quickly understood why unmanned drones are being embraced as a new way of demonstrating a police presence in an area. Technology comes with excellent capabilities that law enforcement agencies can leverage to be certain of safer and secure neighborhoods (Horowitz & Fuhrmann, 2015). Drones are among the few technologies that law enforcement agencies could use to alleviate many of the challenges they face in their ordinary duties. Enhanced drones could help ease law enforcement agencies’ work while ensuring improved effectiveness (Fennelly & Perry, 2020; Karim, Zhang, Laghari, & Asif, 2017). These drones will facilitate a prior assessment of distress calls and ensure those police officers are adequately prepared for the situation before moving to a scene. The paper aims at justifying the necessity of police patrol drones for providing the security of the US society and determining the type and characteristics of drones needed for such tasks. In addition, the paper will discuss the autonomy level of drones and their main requirements and equipment.
The Background of the Project
Law enforcement agencies encounter many problems that need speedy response to ensure the security of the US society. Citizens have a long history of making distress calls on police out of anxiety, only for them to realize that there was no real or genuine cause of alarm. Majorly, these incidents involve residents calling the police on suspicious individuals spotted in neighborhoods. The police are on record for aggressive responses to superfluous distress calls, some of which arouse public anxiety because they are considered add-ons on biased policing against blacks (Mendis, Dharmarathne, & Wanasinghe, 2016). Drones are among the most convenient devices that enhance the agencies’ efficiency in offering operational reactions to arising concerns with precision. The patrol drones are critical as they help law enforcement agencies have holistic informational images of challenging public incidents or regions. By utilizing drones, the police officers will recognize distress calls and avoid aggressive behavior as they handle the public.
Professional crime-fighting presently depends on three approaches: motorized patrol, quick response to calls to duty, and conservative probe of criminal activities. In the past, police response has been improved through community policing to link their telephones and radios to the public and law enforcement officers having patrol schedules to projected crime-prone areas. Otto, Agatz, Campbell, Golden, and Pesch (2018) elaborate that law enforcement officers have concentrated on worse criminal activities, which has been improved by focusing on patrol and exploiting forensic technology. Even though such strategies have recorded significant success, they have been challenged within and beyond policing to be reactive instead of proactive (Feeney, 2016). Most critics do not find such tactics effective in preventing crime (Desmond, Papachristos, & Kirk, 2016). Reactive tactics make their law enforcement officers distanced from the community’s actual affairs and thus continue with their impartiality.
Distress calls are widespread and frequent cases in the US, the relevance and necessity of which can be recognized only by police officers who move to the scene operatively. Individual citizens have alerted police officers of events that have turned out to be unserious crimes. Law enforcement departments in the entire nation are overburdened with calls that required minor responses. The department has a social and administrative requirement to determine the relative intensity of the offenses that have been reported to them (Mendis et al., 2016; Singh, Patil, & Omkar, 2018). The aspects of violence, substantial losses to victims that also lead to murder or permanent injuries, and offenses because predatory strangers define what constitutes a serious crime. They would not be categorized under distress calls. An alternative perspective of a serious crime that warrants the police officer’s immediate response would be that it recognizes violence as a crucial aspect of a serious crime but considers safety components within relationships. The police department ought to have the capacity to seize potential crime or authenticate calls by using drones to check those places (Ramisetty et al., 2020). The patrol drones can be in the right place at the expected time so that crime is thwarted at the onset. Reactive responses can be encouraged by appropriate police patrols and investigations so that much attention is also drawn to an event that warrants it.
Aggressive Police Behavior
A law enforcement officer’s expression of aggression could, sometimes, be beyond the expected in managing a citizen’s behavior. The police officer can express aggression verbally or exercise force against citizens physically. Sometimes police officers express hostile aggression whenever they are not being watched on cameras, and they become impulsive, thoughtless, motivated by anger, and ultimately intending to harm the victims (He, Chan, & Guizani, 2016). The only aggression expected of a police officer is one that is premeditated to achieve some goal without intending to harm. It is worth indicating that the officers were also noticed in exaggerating official authority, especially towards the blacks while performing their ordinary duties, which raises substantial public concern. For example, Milwaukee’s most notorious case in 2004, when officer Andrew Spengler and other off-duty police officers beat Frank Jude, a black man, acutely, breaking his many facial bones (Desmond et al., 2016). The distinction of whether aggression was hostile, or instrumental is specifically significant in the police department. The use of drones comes in handy to ascertain the police force’s legitimacy, whether necessary or in excess.
Observation studies indicate that the police officers scarcely exercise physical force. For instance, Otto et al. (2018) explored 1564 police-citizen experiences and established that 44 (2.8 percent) instances involved physical force, and 2.3 percent used excessive force. Mendis et al. (2016) also established similar results that police utilize reasonable force 2.5 percent of their time and excess force 1.6 percent of their time. Fennelly and Perry (2020) determined through arrest reports that some type of physical force was used in about 2 percent of the 123,500 arrests that were explored. Some citizens have also complained about the extent of police officers using excessive force on them or victims. Thus, such instances of police brutality or use of excessive police force would be made clear through using patrol drones.
Enhanced drones with the capability to respond to distress calls will take pictures, record videos, and transmit the information to law enforcement agencies. This will go a long way in improving the police patrol experience and effectiveness. Police officers will only need to respond based on these enhanced drones’ feedback once the proposal is actualized. The new technology will help improve policing and create a positive public image of law enforcement agencies (Fennelly & Perry, 2020). The police officers’ main goal should be to preserve justice and order within the structures of society and not to brutalize the public. Hence, these devices can significantly contribute to the preliminary assessment of distress signals and guarantee police officers’ appropriate preparation for the situation before intervening in a scene.
Type of Drone
The technology utilized to make the drone flying describes the type of drone. There are drones with fixed-wing sky controller and multirotor, some with ornithopters, and those with turbofans. In terms of law enforcement activity, drones fitted with multirotor systems are the best since they possess the characteristics that fulfill civilian locations’ requirements and conditions (Horowitz & Fuhrmann, 2015). Specifically, the Phantom drone created by the Chinese Corporation DJI is the best for surveillance and monitoring activities in crime-prone areas.
A drone in the military sense is referred to as an unmanned aircraft system (UAS). The term “unmanned” is used because it is an aircraft that does not need to be piloted or a person to be onboard (Horowitz & Fuhrmann, 2015). The drone is automated and can be driven by a person remotely without a police officer directly being in combat zones and exposing their lives. The police patrol drones will have the capability to relay data from distress call scenes and prompt necessary actions, which renders them unique from the ordinary UAVs (Vergouw, Nagel, Bondt, & Custers, 2016). For a start, these crewless systems will not exhibit combat capabilities because that could be disastrous. Rather, they will only aid police patrols and responses. The proposed UAVs will require incorporating current drone technology, GPS systems, and communication links with police officers on patrol into a single design.
Multirotor systems are a subdivision of rotorcraft. Rotorcraft is a term in the aviation sector that describe aircraft that utilize rotary wings to produce lift. Rotorcraft can constitute one or more rotors, for example, the conventional helicopter (Kuzmin & Znak, 2018). Drones that utilize rotary mechanisms have a similar structure to a craft fitted with many small rotors. The many small routes are needed for the drone’s stability, which gives it the name “multirotor systems” (Araújo Jr, Mendonça, Fontinele, & Oliveira, 2019). Generally, the drones such as the DJI Phantom drone utilize at least two double rotors to keep it off the ground, making it a four-rotor drone. The figure below shows a diagram of a DJI Phantom with four rotors.
A landing strip is not necessary while utilizing multirotor drones. Specifically, although their flight speed and distance are insignificant, these drones make a low noise compared to the other fixed-wing drones. DJI Phantom drones can hang in the air for a long time, which suits its surveillance function (Vergouw et al., 2016). The drone has a movable camera fitted on it that takes pictures or records video and can fly faster at the speed of about 54 km/h, with a chance of staying on air for about quarter an hour (Vergouw et al., 2016). Even though DJI Phantom is originally intended for recreational purposes, it is best for surveillance that police officers do (Araújo Jr et al., 2019). It is possible to control the drone through a smartphone or a Wi-Fi device. Using the smartphone, the operator can determine how the camera moves and captures photos or records videos. The drone can be programmed to fly to a certain altitude and take a specific course, with even the possibility of automatically taking-off, landing, recording videos, or going back to the station.
A drone’s autonomy is its ability to be independent of external interference and govern itself, which implies that various drones can be autonomous but on a unique position in the autonomy spectrum. According to the US Department of Defense, there are four autonomy levels of unmanned systems, including a human-operated system, a human delegated system, a human supervised system, and a fully autonomous system (Vergouw et al., 2016). The first level of automation is a human-operated system whereby there is no automation. The person piloting the drone fully determines every movement or what would be controlled 100 percent manually (Kuzmin & Znak, 2018). The second level of automation is a human delegated system where the pilot controls the entire operation and guarantees the drone’s safety. He et al. (2016) elaborates that the drone can still perform one crucial function for a short time. It has no continuous vehicle control, so that the flight’s speed and direction cannot be concurrently managed. The drone can show the pilot when it is close to obstacles, but he must manually change its direction. In this level, inspection and sustenance can be maintained, localization and recognition, protection and security, and assessments.
The third level is a human supervised system where the drone can fly by itself, but a person must still monitor it and be ready to take charge at any moment. According to Karim et al. (2017), the drone will alert the person controlling it if intervention is required, but the pilot is a fallback plan. The last category is a fully autonomous system with room to be controlled by a pilot; however, it is never a must. The drone can fly full time without the intervention of a pilot (Feeney, 2016). However, backup systems must be there so that a pilot can come in if there is a failure. Concerning the autonomy level, the drones can have automatic (completely preprogrammed system) and autonomous systems (the full control from a user). The drone will assess the crime-prone areas and take pictures of suspected activities that are in the flight path that can be evaluated by the law enforcement team.
Human Supervised System
A human supervised system should be implemented in the given case since it can initiate actions within the scope of the current task directions and permissions set by a human. For instance, take-off, recording making, landing, and returning can be among drones’ automatic functions. The idea should be to have a fully automated drone on-site that can survey and record or even have landing abilities but with someone monitoring (Ramisetty et al., 2020). The law enforcement team can respond to any alarm of an illegal activity spotted using the drone. Also, with a pilot monitoring and controlling the drone, they can stop it and capture details of an activity so that the law enforcement team determines if there is a necessity of responding or otherwise.
The main requirements for drones primarily are its capabilities to perform the set tasks and work in the frequency spectrum permitted by legislation. Other drones are illegal and not registered and could be posing a great risk to the environment. The law enforcement department should properly train its officers to handle drones responsibly (Araújo Jr et al., 2019). Operators that are not licensed may carry an illegal operation that compromises the security of a region. The drone should be within sight, particularly if it is not fully automated.
For law enforcement purposes, the drones should have a small size and weight, within several kilograms, operate for a specific period of at least 15 minutes, and be noiseless or quiet not to disturb citizens. The drone’s size matters since one could have a better aerial view, unlike using a bigger drone. A smaller drone can be flexibly transported and may not be easily noticed by possible offenders. The drone should also last for at least 15 minutes so that a police officer will have sufficient time to monitor activities and execute effective operations (Fennelly & Perry, 2020). Several multirotor drones, as the recommended type, are moderately quiet and flies at the expected height. If they do not fly beyond a specific height off the ground, they could cause noise pollution because of the buzzing rotors. If a drone is louder, it is not recommended to the law enforcement department since it announces its presence. Whenever criminals notice that they are being monitored using a drone, they can hide or refrain from performing an illegal act as per that time.
Allowed Frequency Band
According to the European recommendations in ERC Rec 70-03, the legalized operating frequency band for drones ranges from 5.470–5.725 MHz (Vergouw et al., 2016). This spectrum allows for providing an uninterrupted connection between the drone and the officer on long distances. The operating frequency band is critical since they allow the C2 link or the data payload link so that the operator can be keen on what regulations exist in a region. The drone links should maximize the available frequency bands with no room for further limitations (Araújo Jr et al., 2019). The basis for complying with the regulations of the frequency band is so that an operation may not be aborted prematurely because of noncompliance.
The drones’ cameras should be equipped with sensors having night vision, heat sensing, chemical detection, and facial surveillance systems. Thermal drones could have vision imaging cameras that are useful for indicating materials and systems that are overheated. With such detection abilities, the operator can manually shut down the drones to avoid damage (Vergouw et al., 2016). Other sensors have night vision so that police officers can identify perpetrators of criminal activities executing their acts in the night. For the drone to pick images during the night, the sensors must have such night vision capabilities. Thermal drones could have vision imaging cameras that are useful for indicating materials and systems that are overheated. With such detection abilities, the operator can manually shut down the drones to prevent damage (Fennelly & Perry, 2020). Other sensors have night vision so that police officers can identify perpetrators of criminal activities happening in the night. For the drone to pick images during the night, the sensors must have such night vision capabilities. Chemical detection is also necessary since chemicals may damage the system to stop functioning (Engberts & Gillissen, 2016). Sensors that have facial surveillance systems can capture real-time face recognition that helps in identifying the perpetrators clearly. The sensors are more effective when the drones have a 1080p camera and GSP location framework that takes highly defined images.
The drones can be a useful tool that gathers necessary information from the scenes for the police preparation and the prevention of aggressive police behavior cases. The police officers should apply drones with multirotor systems since they can make a low noise, hang in the air for a long time, and do not require a landing strip. The law force department can map out a crime-prone area using drones, which is critical for possible future events or criminal situations. The drones are useful in chasing down suspects as they can apply their critical intelligence to recognize suspects and how armed they could be with ease. Drones can easily be used for investigating crime scenes and offer three-dimensional images for a shorter time. They would be useful even in highly populated regions since they give finer details and monitor people in real-time. Drones that are highly autonomous and are regulated by a pilot could detect risky activities before they worsen. Law enforcement officers that are in pursuit can communicate with each other very fast.
The Future Research
Future research developments should be directed at three main aspects: miniaturization, autonomy, and swarms. Miniaturization of drones is instrumental, especially with the rise of technology, so that it is fitted with tinier sensors and cameras that have the highest capabilities. In the future, drones can possess a great level of streaming data from cameras and sensors and decode the data while on the flight. Miniaturization is put into perspective through drones’ autonomy so that they can automatically determine a drone’s pitch, velocity, and trajectory. Autonomy is the perfect attribute of the drone that could be utilized to penetrate striking targets or highly sensitive areas (Rodday, Schmidt, & Pras, 2016). The drones should be fitted in a way that it has many sensors such as optical, heat, and infrared cameras that cannot be spotted from long distances. A highly autonomous drone can help identify criminals, especially militant leaders, and strike as soon as they are spotted. The drone should also quickly adjust to changing weather circumstances and adapt defensive reactions in cases of attacks.
Another major development that can be exploited is using drones in swarms. The rising autonomy of drones makes the coordination among drones as “swarms” possible. The utilization of swarms would expand the range, flight duration, and highest payload for specific applications. For example, utilizing drones in swarms may need one drone to complement another or take over a task from another that fails to operate. Drones can be damaged when it is being flown, or some go beyond the limit of control signals. Such a situation could be sorted out by replacing them with other drones. Heavy payloads could sometimes be dispersed over many drones beyond the payload of only a single drone (Rodday et al., 2016). Swarms of drones could be useful as sensor systems, especially by using them to trace different persons that can take different directions. Through swarms, each drone can be dedicated to each individual. However, scholars should work on more communication channels so that the drones are coordinated well that they do not collide.
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