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State, Local Drone Programs Are Taking Flight


This article is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent guide, “7 State & Local Tech Trends to Watch.” Download the full guide here.

State and local governments are finding that the sky is the limit with unmanned aerial vehicles. Commonly called drones, these aircraft operate without human pilots onboard, reducing the burden on people to handle tasks such as mapping, surveillance and weather monitoring. Their versatility also translates to more dangerous missions, including fighting fires, tracking crime and performing search and rescue. Drones also present a regulatory challenge for agencies concerned with airspace maintenance, but their commercial potential far outweighs these obstacles. Government drones may someday aid police, deliver packages and more.

For evidence of how drones are helping state and local governments, look no further than Louisville, Kentucky. Gun violence ranks among America’s biggest problems, capable of erupting in any community nationwide. Louisville is using drones against this threat through a program called ShotSpotter that combines unmanned aircraft and human analysts in an initiative that may revolutionize crimefighting.

“Like many big cities, Louisville is dealing with gun violence,” Louisville Chief of Civic Innovation and Technology Grace Simrall said. “This is the seminal issue for many communities. We implemented ShotSpotter in 2017 and have learned a great deal from it. We increased our ability to save lives by having a way to get eyes on the team faster.”

Louisville has a real-time crime center that is responsible for monitoring ShotSpotter notifications. Drones are paired with Louisville’s public-safety camera network to monitor the city for gun violence. These vehicles detect gunshots, capture video, respond to crime scenes and determine false alarms. Louisville’s police save energy, resources and time while avoiding danger.

“Drones will radically transform the way cities are able to deploy and deliver services,” Simrall said. “We recognize that drones will serve as a platform for cities. It won’t just be a single-use case.”

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