Seattle is just one major city in the nation that has now acquired an unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone. The department took an opportunity a few weeks ago to show it off, suggesting something so small and “fun” couldn’t possibly pose a risk to the average, law-abiding citizen. But, civil liberties groups, including the ACLU, aren’t entirely convinced of their value.
According to the Seattle Times, Officer Reuben Omelanchuk held the controller of the drone and said, “it’s very fun,” in regards to operating the machine. The publication itself compared the camera-equipped military-technology to a “toy.”
The Draganflyer X6 Helicopter Tech cost the city $41,000. It can take photos, videos, and infared images that can be viewed live or after the fact. It’s battery life is only 10 minutes and it can’t carry anything weighing more than 35 ounces. But the department is counting on the little chopper to pull some serious weight.
The FAA has set regulations on domestic drone usage. Namely, the drones must be flown below an altitude of 400 feet and the operator must always be within eye contact of the machine. Also, they are not allowed to fly the drones over people, for safety reasons.
So, how will the drones be used in Seattle?
They’ve suggested it will be used to take photos of traffic crashes or when a person might have hostages. In other words, they plan on using it like an unmanned helicopter.
According to ACLU Washington spokesman Doug Honig, “The proposed use of drones in Seattle should prompt city leaders to draft policies and procedures that set strict guidelines on when and how the vehicles can be used, what information will be gathered, with whom it will be shared and how long it will be stored.”
Some are concerned that the drones will be used in violating people’s right to privacy. The city of Seattle says this isn’t the case and that the drone will only be put to use in a manner that respects the rights of everyone. They also assure that the drone will add no further budgetary costs to the department.
“We will work with the community, ACLU and SPD to set very clear policy to ensure your privacy rights are not violated and implement measures to hold the city accountable,” said City Councilmember Bruce Herrell.
If you are beginning to feel like we live in a surveillance state, you are not alone. It seems there are more and more cameras in public every single day. And while these cameras make some people feel safer, it makes others a little more frightened.
The likelihood that a prosecutor will have video evidence of you committing a crime is pretty slim. However, even video evidence can be beaten in a court of law. In other words, when you are accused of a crime, you typically have options available to you.
Contact our offices today if you find yourself accused of a criminal offense in Seattle or surrounding areas. We can offer a free consultation and some potentially valuable legal advice.