Throughout the United States of America, many police and emergency crews rely on drones to help them in their daily missions. But America is far from being pioneers when it comes to police drone use. Many countries have taken advantage of how drones can assist police officers. Drones can be used to collect visual evidence of a crime scene, track suspects on the move or in hiding, monitor crowds and traffic situations, provide critical safety information before an officer enters a scene, as well as aid in search and rescue missions. One of the first nations to begin using drones for police operations country wide was Spain.
In 2016 police in Spain first drew attention to their drone program as they began using the aerial devices to monitor crowds along their world famous beaches. Millions of tourists from around the world flock to Spain’s beautiful beaches each year, and it is up to the police to make sure that these beaches are being kept safe. In Benidorm, on Spain’s eastern coast, police officers first tested out the drone beach patrol program before expanding it to other beaches. Carlos Lopez, the police chief in charge of the forces working on Benidorm’s beach said, “We have two purposes for the drone: preventative surveillance, where we fly it four times a day, and on-the-spot surveillance where if there’s a problem we will fly it to check it out.” Using the drones to monitor Benidorm’s 3 mile stretch of beachfront property allowed officers to keep a close eye on everything going on around them, without struggling to gain access through tons of people.
Then, in anticipation of the massive tourist to be flocking the Spanish roadways over the 2018 holiday season, Spain’s traffic authority (DGT), launched another drone program. This latest program was set up to monitor the numerous motorists that would be traveling through Spain. The DGT had police officers set up five drone stations, Each of the drones would be able to cover a 500 meter radius from an altitude of 200 meters. The drones would be tethered to a cable allowing them to remain airborne for hours at a time. Gregorio Serrano, the DGT’s director announced that, “The incorporation of these unmanned devices to the aerial surveillance services of the DGT will contribute to better traffic management, greater protection for vulnerable groups (cyclists) and a better service in special operations, such as the Motorcycling Grand Prix, Paso del Estrecho or the holiday this weekend.” Since these drones can monitor traffic for a fraction of the price of a helicopter, and proved to be highly successful, what started as a program with only 5 drones was increased to 7 by the end of the year.
This past week, in the midst of the coronavirus mayhem that has been sweeping through the world, Spanish police once again made news with their use of drones. Taking a cue from how police in China used drone to encourage people to practice social distancing, police in Madrid began using drones to remind people to stay indoors. On Saturday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced a 15 day nationwide lock down for all of Spain in an attempt to control the spread of the virus. With a population of 47 million people, Spain has become the second nation in Europe to enact a lock down procedure so as to keep it’s citizen’s healthy. As of Sunday there were a reported 7,753 confirmed cases and 288 deaths in Spain leading the government to realize this lock down was the right choice.
Before the official announcement was made, police officers began patrolling areas of Madrid to try and get people to leave restaurants and other gathering spaces. But they had to find a way to do this while still practicing social distancing themselves. ENAIRE, Spain’s version of the FAA stepped in to help police coordinate a program to use drones safely among crowds of people. With a responsibility to maintain safe shared airspace, ENAIRE has been ensuring that Spain has one of the highest records of safe drone operations, including the drones utilized this past week by police.
Police officers flew the small drones throughout the streets of Madrid. The drones are equipped with a HD camera that gives the police officer a live stream view of the area. The police officer is able to stay a safe distance away, allowing the drone to approach people while they monitor from a hand held device. Not only does the handheld device have a viewing monitor and all the controls needed to operate the drone, it also has a microphone on it. This microphone transmits to a small, but very loud speaker on the drone that the police officer can speak through. Police officers proceeded to scold people for being out and about during the midst of a health crisis and reminded them to get indoors.
Spain is taking their lock down very seriously. Those found breaking the rules of quarantine can be fined up to €600,000 euros, and even face prison time. Madrid police Tweeted, “We won’t hesitate to use all the measures we have at our disposal to look out for your safety and everyone’s safety.” Some of these safety measure are being aided through the use of drones. It is the goal of every nation facing this outbreak that our communities stay healthy and strong. Knowing that there are technologies available to help organizations like police forces keep us safe is very comforting.