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Virginia Beach Studies Drones For Law Enforcement

Virginia Beach, Virginia is studying the use of drones for law enforcement. The City Council held a meeting this week, which featured a presentation from local Deputy Chief of Police Tony Zucaro who said that using a drone to monitor situations and collect evidence would save money over using a traditional helicopter.

According to WTKR in Virginia Beach, the cost of a drone for police use would be approximately $95,000. Public safety drones, like the one up for consideration, contain special features like enhanced video capabilities, and also require additional training.

City police would have to get an allowance from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to use the drone, and would also need to stay within a close range around a crime scene. Aerial studies may also be needed as Virginia Beach already has restricted airspace around the local airport and Naval base.

As CivSource has previously reported, there have been 327 close encounters between manned aircraft and drones since 2013. Before granting authority to use a drone, the FAA investigates existing local airspace considerations like Virginia Beach’s airport. According to the study from The Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College, “findings indicate that incidents largely occur in areas where manned air traffic density is high and where drone use is prohibited.” This could pose a problem for local manned aircraft in the event that a police action shifts locations quickly.

Under local ordinances, for the Virginia Beach Police Department to get a drone there would need to be a public hearing and vote on the funding. There is currently no timeline under consideration about when acquiring a drone might come to a vote.