Arlington Police Now Have FAA Approval to Use Those Drones They Bought

Last month, we told you that the Arlington Police Department submitted an application to the Federal Aviation Administration in 2012, asking to please be allowed to use the two small remote control drones they bought. The drones were purchased for a little over $200,000 from Leptron Industrial Robotic Technologies, with grant money from the Department of Homeland Security. Arlington PD's request to fly the drones came to light as part of an open records request submitted to the FAA by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported yesterday that the Arlington Police have gotten approval from the FAA to use the drones. Freshly appointed Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson announced yesterday that the approval had come from the agency in late February.

The Star-Telegram reports that Johnson made the announcement at an annual awards banquet; they didn't issue a press release about it, nor is it mentioned in the press release from the banquet . The paper says the drones are 58 inches long, equipped with cameras and will be used in "numerous law enforcement missions."

Johnson told the audience that the technology could be used to search for missing people or photograph car crashes. They're not to be used for "police pursuits, traffic citations or on routine patrols," he added. He promised the new drones would be "an asset for the community" and "not an intrusion into people's civil liberties."

The Arlington Police are, according to the paper, one of several cities participating in "drone evaluation programs," sponsored by drone-making companies, aimed at figuring out how best to use the new technology. (The Austin Police Department was also accepted into such an evaluation program, before the idea was abruptly killed by the city last June.) By all means, guys: Start using the drones first, then figure out how they should be used.

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Anna Merlan
Contact: Anna Merlan