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St. Louis Police Looking Into Using Drones

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A U.S. Senate committee called on drone industry experts to testify about the future use of drones in law enforcement. (AFP/Getty/Brendan Smialowski)

A U.S. Senate committee called on drone industry experts to testify about the future use of drones in law enforcement. (AFP/Getty/Brendan Smialowski)

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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOX) - Imagine you’re walking your dog down a popular street in St. Louis when you notice something flying in the sky. Is it a bird? A toy? No, it’s a drone.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department is pushing forward with a drone surveillance program.

The concept is still in the initial phase, but Police Chief Sam Dotson says it could be cheaper and more effective than officers on the ground or helicopters in the sky.

“We’re exploring it. We’re beginning the process,” Dotson told KMOX, adding the program is still “12-18 months down the road.”

Right now, the department is seeking a $30,000 FAA approval and has been talking with other cities, like Dallas and New York who are also considering using drones for surveillance.

Dotson says he knows the thought of drones may bring up concerns about privacy, but he argues that the program would be similar to the helicopter surveillance program already in place.

“These are not sinister things that crawl up the side of your house and peer in your windows in the dark of night,” he says, adding the drones would only keep an eye on public places and their primary use would be for pursuits.

Overall, Dotson said the base-line drone model costs about $30,000. He compared that to a helicopter, which costs around $1.6 million.

But before the program becomes a reality Dotson says he wants to get the public’s reaction. “I’ve been going around and talking about it. I want feed back, I want to know how the community feels about it.”

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