Dallas PD prepares to use drones to combat crime

The Dallas Police Department is laying the groundwork to start using drones.

Part of the idea is to fly drones where helicopters can't go like inside buildings to identify suspect locations or potentially an active shooter.

DPD already has two helicopters. It emphasizes that the drones would supplement and not replace them.

Police say uses for the drones are endless. The unmanned aircraft can go into dangerous situations without risking an officer's life.

“They would open the door and launch into the building. They can go through hallways in advance of the responding officers searching that building,” explained DPD Assistant Chief of Police Paul Stokes. “They would be the tip of the spear as it were clearing these buildings.”

Dallas city council members are on board.

“I can see 100 different uses,” said Councilwoman Sandy Greyson. “It is such cool technology.”

But some of the same restrictions for amateur drone operators would also apply to police.

Stokes says the department will soon be working to inform the public about DPD's drone plan.

“We're not going to just launch these aircraft spying on people,” he said. “These will be very mission-specific incidents when we'll launch these.”

Last year in Richardson, the search for the body of 3-year-old Sherin Mathews was one of the first criminal cases to be assisted by drones. In Arlington, police have been using them for five years.

“The benefit is time,” said Arlington Police Lt. Brook Rollins. “We're getting time back to the community to answer calls faster than we have in the past.” 

The department now uses drones to help after fatal crashes where the drone's images can provide a better perspective for accident investigators.   

“We're looking at expanding what we have and going further,” Rollins said. “We didn't realize how beneficial these aircraft would be to us.”

First, DPD needs to get approval from the FAA to use drones in the complicated airspace over Dallas. Then, it will look at purchasing five drones at a cost of about $100,000.