Drones flying over crowds are not normally a good mix — if there’s anywhere you don’t want four blades merrily spinning, it’s in the middle of a group of people. But nonetheless, Parisian police think they will be a useful tool for policing large gatherings.
The Paris police department has issued a public design brief, asking for companies to bring proposals for crowd-monitoring drones. The ideal design will have six rotors, a speed of 10 metres/second, a kilometre range, HD and thermal cameras and a flight time of 30 minutes with a payload of 1kg. The cops are also looking for automatic and manual flight options.
Those specs are right on the upper end of existing professional drones, but certainly feasible, for the right price. Using drones actually makes sense for police forces: helicopters have long been a tool for providing real-time aerial surveillance, but are orders of magnitude more expensive to operate.
With drones making that aerial surveillance much cheaper, the questions start being about overreach. Sure, drones are a proportionate and useful tool for policing large sports games, or riots. But it’s a slippery slope from there to targeting peaceful protests, activists and basically anyone littering.