What are police drones?

Police drones are proving to be an essential tool for law enforcement agencies, enabling them to respond to emergencies safely, quickly, and efficiently.

The use of drones by law enforcement agencies has grown exponentially in the past few years. According to the latest statistics from Atlas of Surveillance, a project of the EFF and the University of Nevada, at least 1,172 police departments across the country are using drones. This is due in part to advances in drone technology and in part to the fact that drones are becoming more affordable and accessible.

This article highlights the advantages of utilizing drones in law enforcement, their applications, and top police drone options.

Police drone

What are police drones?

As the name implies, police drones are drones that are owned and operated by various law enforcement agencies. These machines have multi-intelligence capabilities that can navigate and sense in multiple directions at any given time.

Fitted with the latest high-definition cameras and thermal imaging technology, law enforcement drones are designed to serve a much different purpose than commercial drones, primarily to help cops find suspects and traffic violations more efficiently and safely.

What do police drones look like?

What do police drones look like?

Police drones are not unique in the drone world, as they look the same as any drone in most cases. However, police drones are able to fly in neighborhoods and restricted airspace in a way that commercial drones cannot.

Police drone picture

Source from cbjlawyers.com

Benefits of drones in law enforcement

Benefits of drones in law enforcement

Drones are being used by law enforcement around the world in many emergencies and tactical operations due to the following advantages:

Rapid deployment. Drones are small and compact, and these design features allow them to be deployed quickly. Law enforcement officers can have them in the air in minutes and allow them to monitor and capture video and images of the incident in question.

Working day and night. The police drones are equipped with high-definition cameras with powerful zoom capabilities, combined with thermal cameras that allow them to observe at night as if they were in daylight.

Cost-effective. A conventional manned helicopter and fixed-wing drone require specialized ground crews, multiple shifts of pilots and co-pilots, and runways or helipads, which means they are expensive to acquire, equip, and maintain. By contrast, a drone doesn't even require paying staff to control and monitor it, nor does it require high maintenance costs.

Reduced risk. Drones can enter a dangerous environment and provide decision-makers with a real-time view of what is happening. The appropriate team members are then dispatched afterward, helping you and your officers avoid dangerous situations.

Improving efficiency. Police drones can cover a large area in a short amount of time, which delivers important and useful information faster than multiple officers on the ground. This allows for helping first responders to respond to emergencies and respond to other incidents more effectively.

How are police using drones?

How are police using drones?

What are police drone facts? According to the use of drones in Minnesota during 2020, released by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in 2021, 93 law enforcement agencies from across the state deployed drones 1,171 times in 2020, with 352 drones deployed after emergencies and 27 drones deployed in response to disasters, resulting in a cumulative price tag of nearly $1 million.

The report shows that 64 % of the drones were used only to "train officers," 23 % of the aircraft were used to indicate reasonable suspicion of a crime for information cell phones, 5 % were used for requests from other government agencies not related to law enforcement, 5 % were used for road collision investigations, and 2 % and for public incident preparation and monitoring.

So, what are the specific applications of police drones? Below, we will introduce in detail:

Search and rescue operations

The use of drones in search and rescue operations is particularly notable. A thermal drone, attached to an infrared camera, is commonly used by police to search for missing persons and animals.

Drones can quickly acquire aerial data over large areas, which allows rescuers to map the entire search area and pinpoint where missing people may be trapped. Compared to ground vehicles, drones can get to a location faster and even reach inaccessible areas.

Police drone for search and rescue

Traffic accident scene investigations

Drones have become an important tool for crash scene investigation, which can capture aerial images and generate a 3D model of the crash scene. This navigable drone 3D model allows the team to view and perform every angle of the scene, study vehicle damage up close, and gather important insights such as skid marks, and distances of each vehicle.

Police drones can also be used for traffic management in rush hour and congested areas. It may be difficult for police officers on the ground to assess the causes and dynamics of traffic congestion, but a drone can easily solve this problem by flying overhead to determine the cause of traffic jams. This information can then be relayed to traffic units so they can make the best decisions.

Police drone for traffic management

Crime scene analysis and reconstruction

Drone technology replicates almost any scene, providing users with the ability to revisit the crime scene at any time. Flying around crime scenes, drones can collect photos at different heights and angles, allowing for complete coverage of an area.

Compared to traditional human forensics, the speed with which drones can move from place to place and collect an uninterrupted stream of data is unparalleled. On top of that, the drones produce highly detailed renderings and 3D models, which allow investigators to take measurements and run data analysis, from determining the force of impact of two objects to verifying the location of each item in the evidence field.

Track and locate suspects

More and more police forces are taking advantage of it to safely and quickly arrest suspects. In today's active time of shootings and terrorist attacks, more and more police forces are using drones to safely and quickly apprehend suspects.

Deploying drones to investigate these highly volatile and dangerous scenarios not only keeps officers safe but expands the aerial industry and allows law enforcement to collect more informational data in real time.

Natural disaster response and recovery efforts

When a disaster strikes, a rapid and effective response is critical to assisting people, reducing the number of victims, and mitigating the economic impact. Drones can search large areas in a short period, reducing the time required to locate victims and the time required for subsequent intervention.

In addition, drones can provide first responders with critical information about the routes that need to be taken during search and rescue operations.

Equipped with thermal imaging cameras, drones can be used to search for victims buried under the rubble. Drones can also be used to transport emergency supplies (food, water, medicine, etc.) to provide help and relief.

Crowd monitoring and surveillance

In monitoring large gatherings and events, drone surveillance provides a broader view of crowd gatherings and transmits real-time data to crowd control teams. Drones can zoom in on areas of interest and provide the team with detailed information about what is happening on the ground.

This information can help make critical decisions for the control team. In the event of an emergency, in-depth situational awareness helps the team respond effectively and promptly. This improves the team's effectiveness in crowd management.

Police drone for event monitoring

What kind of drones are used by the police?

What kind of drones are used by the police?

For most police work, drones that provide high-quality live video, are both user-friendly, reliable, and safe are the most popular. Among the drones used by police departments, the most common models include those from JOUAV, DJI, Yuneec, and Autel.

These police drones are typically equipped with dual cameras, including a high-definition camera with powerful zoom capabilities and a thermal camera that can operate in low light and low-visibility conditions.

Many of these drones can also have additional payloads attached, such as flashing lights, shouters, and even delivery systems to provide vital supplies such as food, medicine, and first aid kits during emergencies, such as after a natural disaster.


7 Best police drones for sale

There are some of the most popular drones for public safety operations:

JOUAV CW-15D VTOL drone - Best police drone for daily surveillance

The CW-15D is a battery-operated small VTOL drone, which is designed for surveillance and security. Unlike quadcopters, this law enforcement drone has a substantially longer range, faster speed, and is more energy efficient. With impressive flight times of up to 180 minutes, cruising speed of up to 61km/h, and a transmission range of up to 50km, this drone can quickly cover large and difficult-to-access areas, reducing staff numbers and costs.

CW-15 VTOL police drone

The CW-15 is ideal for all-weather reconnaissance and surveillance of fixed and moving targets, which has been used for everything from public events to wildlife protection. Equipped with the MG170E, this UAV can identify and track moving objects such as people, vehicles, and boats, and will constantly acquire the dynamic position of the object. Everything from takeoff and landing to path planning is handled automatically, so security personnel does not need to do any pilot training.

Key features:

  • Flight time: 120-180 min
  • Max. cruising speed: 61.2 km/h
  • Payload capacity: 3 kg
  • Flight distance/video transmission range: 50 km
  • Wind resistance: 10.8-13.8m/s
  • Camera: 3-axis gimbal camera with 30X optical zoom and 640×512 thermal sensors
  • Obstacle avoidance: forward, downward, and downward-looking binocular obstacle avoidance
  • Open system architecture: for secondary development for different applications
  • Operating environment temperature: -20℃-55℃

JOUAV CW-30E VTOL drone - Best large police drone for public security

With two versions gasoline or heavy oil-powered, the CW-30E is specially designed for both land and maritime surveillance missions. Having 600 min of flight time and 90km/h of cruising speed makes this long-range drone an excellent choice for wide-area surveillance.

CW-30E VTOL police drone

With a 10kg payload capability, this heavy lift drone supports multiple payload configuration options to meet different law enforcement applications. The police surveillance drone is equipped with the new MG170E gimbal camera that combines a 30x optical zoom camera and thermal infrared sensor, to provide high-resolution images for day and night operations.

Key features:

  • Flight time: 600 min
  • Max. cruising speed: 90 km/h
  • Payload capacity: 10 kg
  • Flight distance/video transmission range: 100 km/200 km
  • Wind resistance: 13.9-17.1 m/s
  • Camera: 2-axis gimbal camera with 30X optical zoom, 640×512 thermal sensors, and 4km laser rangefinder
  • Obstacle avoidance: forward, downward, and downward-looking binocular obstacle avoidance
  • Optional mobile landing and take-off
  • Operating environment temperature: -20℃-55℃
DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced

DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced - The best affordable police drone

DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced is an excellent choice for law enforcement looking for an affordable entry-level police drone. Weighting only 905g, this aircraft is equipped with a foldable design, making it very easy to travel.

DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise drone for law enforcement

An improvement on the Mavic 2 Zoom, the Mavic 2 Enterprise has similar basic specifications to the Mavic 2 Zoom but adds a few modifications and additions for specialized enterprise applications. The Mavic 2 Enterprise can carry a dual option for vision and thermal imager, and also adds accessories essential in the field, including spotlights, beacons, and speakers.

Key features:

  • Maximum flight time: 31 min (no wind)
  • Max. cruising speed: 72 km/h (S mode, no wind), 50 km/h (P mode, no wind)
  • Payload capacity: 899 g
  • Flight distance/video transmission range: 5km
  • Wind resistance: 8-11m/s
  • Camera: 640×480 thermal camera, 4K HD camera
  • Omnidirectional Obstacle Avoidance
  • Operating environment temperature: 0℃-40℃
DJI Matrice 300 RTK

DJI Matrice 300 RTK - Best drone for smart inspection

Designed for industrial and commercial applications, the DJI Matrice 300 RTK drone comes with an intelligent tracking and advanced dual-operation capabilities, making drone inspection easier and allowing pilots to focus more consciously on their mission, rather than controlling the drone.

DJI Matrice 300 RTK police drone

With its large payload capacity, it can be fitted with up to 3 payloads simultaneously, including the new Zenmuse H20 and H20T cameras. As a drone with longest flight time of up to 55min and a cruising speed of 82.8km/h, the DJI M300 RTK commercial drone allows you to quickly navigate vast terrain during time-sensitive operations, such as search and rescue, and emergency response.

Key features:

  • Maximum flight time: 55 min (no wind)
  • Max. cruising speed: 82.8km/h
  • Payload capacity: 2.7 kg
  • Flight distance/video transmission range: 15km
  • Wind resistance: 15m/s
  • Camera: hybrid sensor solution with laser rangefinder (LRF)/zoom/thermal camera
  • Omnidirectional Obstacle Avoidance
  • Operating environment temperature: -20℃-50℃
Sky Hero Loki 2

Sky Hero Loki 2 - Best indoor tactical drone for defense

As an excellent drone for defense, the Sky-Hero Loki 2 is built for short-range reconnaissance in dark indoor obstacle-rich environments and GPS-denied areas. It features a front-and-center infrared LED system that allows the drone to provide intelligence to the operator in complete darkness. This law enforcement drone can also provide precise 3D position hold without GPS, even in total darkness.

Sky Hero Loki police drone

Optimized modes for indoor operations, the LOKI Mk2 can bounce off walls and ceilings, and fly into attics, crawl spaces, and under ductwork. You can even fly it under furniture. In addition, its turtle mode is also a top feature that allows the drone to automatically flip when it is finally on its back.

Key features:

  • Maximum flight time: 15 min
  • Max. cruising speed: 36 km/h
  • Payload capacity: 150 g
  • Range line of sight: 1,6km
  • Range no line of sight: 150m
  • Front and bottom selectable and dimmable IR LEDs
  • On board extremely sensitive HD microphone
  • Operating environment temperature: -20℃-50℃
Parrot Anafi USA

Parrot Anafi USA - Best government drone for public safety

Parrot Anfi USA public safety drone is a powerful and versatile small quadcopter. Its compact design makes it effortless to set up in minutes or to move from one location to another easily. The drone has three cameras, including a FLIR Boson thermal imaging camera, 2x zoom RGB camera, and wide-angle RGB camera for easy generation of 4K video recording and visible thermal stills and video

Parrot Anfi-USA government drone

With an advanced data encryption and security system, the drone encrypts all data generated during a flight on its S.D. card using the AES-XTS algorithm to prevent data loss if the aircraft falls into the wrong hands. The drone uses a highly secure WPA2 Wi-Fi connection as its default connection while operating in the air to prevent malicious people from overriding the drone's software.

Key features:

  • Maximum flight time: 32 min
  • Max. horizontal speed: 54km/h, Max. vertical speed: 14km/h
  • Payload capacity: 2.7 kg
  • Flight distance/video transmission range: 5km
  • Camera: high-zoom RGB, wide-angle RGB, and thermal
  • Wind resistance: 15m/s (30 minutes with optional Microhard mounted)
  • Operating environment temperature: -35℃-49℃
Yuneec Typhoon H

Yuneec Typhoon H - Best easy-to-use law enforcement drone

The Yuneec Typhoon H drone makes evidence data collection easy, allowing for forensic photography, investigations, recording of crime scenes, and much more. Thanks to improved wiring, the drone's air circulation, and cooling were improved, resulting in flight times of up to 28 minutes in calm weather and conditions.

Yuneec Typhoon H law enforcement drone

The Yuneec Typhoon H is equipped with Intel Real Sense, a combination of a 1′′ CMOS camera sensor and a 1″ 4K camera that delivers outstanding visual quality with maximum accuracy. The interference-free precision compass makes it possible to fly even in difficult-to-fly environments, making the Yuneec H520E the best choice for many applications.

Key features:

  • Maximum flight time: 20 min
  • Max. cruising speed: 72km/h in sports mode and 50km/h in angle mode
  • Payload capacity: 10.4 kg
  • Flight distance/video transmission range: 1.6km
  • Wind resistance: 10m/s
  • Camera: CGO3+ 4K camera with 12-megapixel and a 3-axis brushless gimbal
  • Operating environment temperature: -0℃-40℃
What kind of payloads are used for incident response drones?

What kind of payloads are used for incident response drones?

CW-15 police drone with payload

  1. Thermal imaging cameras - These cameras are used to detect heat signatures, allowing officers to locate suspects or people hiding under vegetation in low-light environments. The payload is used by law enforcement to manage surveillance activities, locate and apprehend suspects, investigate crime scenes and conduct search and rescue operations.
  2. Optical/visual cameras - These cameras are used to monitor video of a specific area and transmit it to law enforcement in real time. They usually have a powerful zoom feature that allows you to view very small objects from a distance. Record video of a specific area, as well as view the environment in real time.
  3. LiDAR - They can be used to build an environmental map of an area by measuring the distance between objects using high-speed laser pulses. A LiDAR drone can be useful for planning rescue search and rescue operations.
  4. Spotlights - These payloads allow law enforcement to illuminate large areas at night
  5. Loudspeakers - One-way or two-way communications via loudspeakers allow law enforcement to coordinate operations and communicate with suspects.


Can law enforcement agencies use drones?

Yes, you can if you follow the drone laws set by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) or any regulatory agency with jurisdiction over your area. In a study conducted by the Bard Institute, more than 300 state and local law enforcement officials were found to already be using drones in some way.

How much is a police drone?

The cost of a police drone can vary widely depending on the model, features, and accessories. Generally, a basic police drone can cost anywhere from $500 to $50,000 USD. It's important to note that the cost of a police drone may also include additional expenses such as training, maintenance, and insurance.

How big are police drones?

Police drones come in different sizes depending on their intended use. The smallest police drones can fit in the palm of your hand and weigh less than 250 grams, while larger ones can have wingspans of up to 2 meters (6.5 feet) or more and weigh over 25 kilograms (55 pounds). The size of a police drone depends on its payload capacity, flight time, and other specifications required for its specific policing tasks.

How high do police drones fly?

The maximum altitude and drone altitude limits of police drones are influenced by their size and capabilities. Their rated operating altitude can range from 1,200 feet above the ground to a flight level of more than 22,000 feet, and their service ceiling can range from 50 to 60,000 feet. However, according to the FAA, the maximum allowable flight altitude for commercial high-altitude drones is 400 feet above the ground.

How fast can police drones fly?

Depends on the make and model of the drone. Most commercial drones can reach 60km/h with ease, with the latest JOUAV CW-30E VTOL drone doing around 90km/h. According to the FAA Rules and Regulations, if you have no special waiver, you can only fly during daylight hours, no faster than 160 miles per hour.

How long can police drones fly?

A typical police drone can stay in the air for 10 to 30 minutes, while high-end police drones can fly for even an hour or more. However, police drone hours depend on the types of drones (A fixed-wing drone provides a flight time greater than that of a multirotor), flight weight, battery capacity, battery operating temperature (when the battery temperature exceeds 20 degrees, the battery will consume more energy), and weather conditions (strong winds will shorten the battery capacity).

How far can a police drone fly? 

The flight range of a police drone can vary depending on its design, battery life, and other factors. In general, most police drones can fly up to several kilometers (typically between 3-7 kilometers or 2-4 miles) from the operator, although some high-end models can have a flight range of up to 15 kilometers (9 miles) or more.

How far can police drones see?

Under ideal conditions, a typical police drone can see 4,000 meters or more during the day, but at night it can only see people 50m away. If you go beyond that distance, you can only see a blurry figure. But if the police drone is equipped with a camera with night vision capabilities, it can see farther and more clearly.

Can police drones see through walls?

No, drones for law enforcement cannot see through walls with standard cameras because the light in the room does not penetrate the walls.

Do police forces need special permission to fly drones?

Yes, in most countries, police forces need special permission to fly drones. They need to follow regulations and obtain the necessary certifications from the relevant aviation authorities. For instance, in the United States, police departments must comply with the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) regulations for flying drones, including obtaining a remote pilot certificate and following specific flight rules.

Other countries may have their own aviation authorities and regulations that police forces need to adhere to when operating drones. Additionally, police departments may also need to obtain permission from local authorities before flying drones in certain areas.

Can police use a drone without a warrant?

In most countries, the use of drones by police without a warrant is subject to legal restrictions and limitations. Police may only use drones for specific purposes, such as search and rescue missions, traffic management, or in emergency situations, and they must follow legal and ethical guidelines when doing so.

In some cases, police may be able to fly a drone without a warrant, such as in public areas where there is no expectation of privacy, but they still need to adhere to the applicable laws and regulations.

Do police drones have infrared?

Yes, many professional drones can be equipped with infrared sensors that can help detect heat sources, including the human body and animals.

Do police drones have weapons?

The use of weapons on drones by police is generally not allowed due to legal and safety reasons. In addition, many countries have strict laws and regulations regarding the use of force by law enforcement, and the use of weaponized drones could be in violation of these laws.

However, some countries, such as China and Russia, have reportedly developed military-grade drones that can be equipped with weapons, but these drones are not typically used for civilian law enforcement purposes.

What does a police drone look like at night?

When flying at night, police drones may have lights attached to them to make them more visible to the operator and others in the area. These lights may be white, red, or green, and may be used to help the operator navigate the drone and identify objects in the dark.

What does a police drone sound like?

The sound of a police drone can vary depending on its size, design, and propulsion system. Generally, smaller police drones with electric motors will make a buzzing or whirring sound, which is relatively quiet and may be difficult to hear from a distance. Larger police drones with gasoline engines or other propulsion systems may make a louder, more noticeable sound, similar to that of a small airplane or helicopter. 

How do you spot a police drone at night?

If you want to spot a drone at night, you can look for its lights, follow its sound, or detect its radio frequencies. You can also send your own signal to the space where you suspect the drone is located, and use a device to analyze the signal that bounces back to confirm the drone's presence.

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