DPS can bust a drug house with technology not much bigger than your keyboard. The chief flight officer for the agency recently revealed the use of unmanned aircraft in the Austin area.
They fly high above the Texas-Mexico border to monitor drug activity. The military uses them in enemy territory to protect our troops overseas. In February, a miniature helicopter-shaped drone will fly over the Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington for the Superbowl. The next stop could be your backyard.
Texas DPS Chief Pilot Bill Nabors recently revealed that the agency used a small drone called the Wasp III to perform an aerial sweep northwest of Austin in 2009.
DPS SWAT officers requested the drone before executing a search warrant on a home they believed had weapons and drugs inside.
DPS purchased four drones in late 2008. They were in use until November of 2009 when the FAA grounded them because of technical issues.
The Wasp III, manufactured by AeroVironment is small, just more than two feet in length. Officers use a computer to fly it. Two on-board cameras send back a live video signal.
The equipment and six trained officers are also available for police department or sheriff’s office throughout the state.
ACLU spokesperson Jose Medina says the organization is doing its best to make sure agencies adhere to the FAA's requirement that drones only be used in life-threatening situations.
"These things shouldn't be used for fishing expeditions. There should be a good reason for these things to be used. Based on information that maybe crime could happen at that particular area but not just flying at random in a particular city,” Medina said.
According to the AeroVironment, agencies must get approval from the State Department of Defense in order to make a purchase. Then, the FAA requires that agencies apply for a certificate to operate it answering questions like how high it will fly, where, and why.