The Draganflyer X6 is an electric powered Unmanned Aircraft System that weighs about 4.4 pounds. It can automatically take-off and is manually flown.

While they aren’t going to fly over buildings and fry computers with microwaves, drones managed by the City of Seattle may help during rescue missions, disaster responses and traffic accidents.

The Seattle Police Department will host a Q&A with the community Thursday night at 6 p.m. at Garfield Community Center to discuss the drones and receive feedback on SPD’s proposed policy that was released Wednesday.

The Seattle Times reports that earlier this year the FAA approved a small group of law-enforcement agencies to use drones, with the most going to academic, military and government organizations. In April, the SPD introduced a 4.5 pound Draganflyer X6 Helicopter Tech that go for $41,000 each.

The drones must follow FAA guidelines, like not flying at night, around people or over crowds. They must be monitored by at least one operator and one observer.

In the operations manual, SPD’s mission statement says that the unmanned aerial systems (UAS) “can be utilized in circumstances which would save life and property, as well as being able to detect possible dangers that could not otherwise be seen.” It also mentioned how having the drones would have helped in a crisis like Hurricane Katrina.

This isn’t happening just in Seattle. Last December marked the first time a drone was used to assist police in making an arrest on U.S. soil in a case involving six missing cows. A California sheriff recently requested drones and there’s talk over in the United Kingdom of using the same thing.

Reading through the comments on the Times story, it’s interesting to note how angry some people are that funds are being used for drones. There are also all sorts of privacy issues associated with the concept.

So what do you think: Is this an innovative and effective tool for the SPD, or just a waste of taxpayer money?

Previously on GeekWire: Bad-ass Boeing missile flies over buildings, fries computers with microwaves

Comments

  • http://twitter.com/bluestoneacct Laura Dodson

    I’m thankful that I don’t live in seattle.

  • Dan

    I was just looking at these yesterday (the non Public Safety versions), but when I found out how much they cost, I had to close my browser and walk away. Being that the SPD can already fly over us, I think this is great, much cheaper than a helicopter.

    I don’t see these being used too often, and it’s not like they are just going to be patrolling, they will be launched for specific tasks, just like a helicopter would be.

  • Reluctant Participant

    It seems like an awfully slippery slope, in terms of citizens’ privacy…

  • http://www.facebook.com/ryanlburt Ryan Burt

    So they are flown manually but cost 41k? I don’t get it.

  • No

    No No No.

  • Tim R.

    What is the correct date for “Thursday Night” for the meeting at Garfield?

    As the founder of the first NW Homeland Security Venture Forum, my gut feeling is this drone space needs to be completely monitored by the civilian tech community. The current data federation from our cellphone tower switching to licence plate scanning and more is getting really creepy.
    FYI – we have a local company called Free Flight Systems that makes top-level Quadrocopters. If we are going to allow Skynet, lets make them here in our backyard.

    Thanks for posting. I do hoop GeekWire sends a camera crew to the meeting… Tim R.

  • markmackay

    Who has access to the information? How are the monitors monitored? The existence of a technology is not an imperative to use it. What will we lose when these drones take off?

  • firewallender

    I for one welcome our flying drone overlords.

    /sarcasm

  • John Smith

    Makes sense. There is already a camera at every street light. It ain’t the wool pulled over Seattle, it is the lie of technology. Who voted for this? Pretty sure that 41k could go to the education system that is in crisis. FML, can’t wait to get off this rock.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=704416836 Tim Reha

    I’ll do my best to get a live stream at 6pm – here is the link http://www.ustream.tv/channel/dronespotter

    • johnhcook

      Thanks Tim. That would be cool.

  • JetCityOrange

    I went & shot video. Let’s just say the citizens aren’t at all happy with the idea of SPD drones overhead: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2Av6siCGvM (jump to the 11 minute mark)

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