PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The Portland City Council just approved an aerial drone program for Portland police, giving the green light to spend $80,000 on a test program for one year.
The Portland Police Bureau has been asking for this eye-in-the-sky technology for years, finally satisfying council concerns over privacy issues.
In the drone program underway in Washington County for the past several years, KOIN 6 found out that their drones are used almost daily – sometimes to find a criminal in hiding, like on a rooftop. Some of the drones have night vision technology.
Deputy David Huey of the Washington County Sheriff’s Department said there are other uses as well.
“We can send them into a structure. One of the drones even has a flying cell phone, so I can fly that drone inside and we can have communications with a person that’s inside that barricaded residence maybe…We can send those drones up to a vehicle where maybe someone is armed,” Huey said.
Portland police told KOIN 6 they will begin training for several officers, each of whom must pass the FAA-required drone pilot exam. PPB says they expect the one-year trial program to get underway this summer.
The drones in that test trial will be used in the traffic and explosives divisions, traffic crime scene processing, search and rescue, catching an armed suspect and the investigation of certain situations involving a bomb squad.
Opponents have cited privacy concerns, but under current city and state rules, the drones cannot be used for crowd surveillance or management unless there is “a life-safety critical incident.”
The City Council passed a resolution back in February to assess the impact of surveillance technology like this and to keep an eye on what information is collected.