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Amazon was recently granted a patent for miniature police shoulder drones. The device is officialy called an “unmanned aerial vehicle assistant,” aimed at use by police for everything from monitoring situations to finding lost children at a fair.
The miniature would be voice activated and could detect commands, among other things, essentially providing a second set of ears and eyes. Depending on how the were outfitted, it could be to find vehicles in a large parking lot, run license plates, monitor a dangerous situation, gather remote video and audio, detect fires using a thermal imaging camera, or even identify people using facial recognition software, among other tasks, according to the sfgate.com.
Beyond voice control from an officer or other user, these little drones could take cues from an app or computer, allowing far off monitoring or information gathering rather discreetly in some situations.
The devices, if put into wide use, would no doubt raise new questions about police use of technology, said Shankar Narayan, technology and liberty project director for the America Civil Liberties Union in Seattle. Civil rights advocates would look to regulate such devices before they ever went into use.
“We want to make sure the use of this technology doesn’t turn into an open fishing expedition just because newer technology allows it” Narayan said. In addition, information collected by the drones would no doubt fall under public disclosure requirements, but much like footage from body cameras, debates would soon swell around what to release and when.