Will Drones Be the Next Police Cars?

Law enforcement prepares for its newest rookies.

Mesa County deputy Derek Johnson launches a Falcon. The sheriff’s office uses UAVs mainly for crime scene photography and search-and-rescue. (Mesa County Sheriff's Office )
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Not that a small UAV couldn’t do damage; Miller acknowledges that you don’t want a Falcon crashing through your car windshield. But preventing an airplane crash is up to pilots, whether they’re in the cockpit or not.

While building Mesa County’s drone capabilities is a challenge in itself, Miller acknowledges that he has a larger role to play in the unfolding drama of domestic drone use. Besides testifying last year before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he serves on a multinational panel on UAV operating standards. For the past two years, he’s flown UAVs for 225 hours and has been interviewed by reporters nationwide. It’s a sensitive stage, where one misstep could brand UAVs a liability rather than an asset, and Miller is determined to do things right.

“You make a mistake following the rules, okay,” he says, with a nod to the Falcon cliff crash. “You make a mistake not following the rules, it’s bad for everybody.”

The tricky part, at this point, is knowing what the rules are.

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