Austin Police Department to Hold Public Hearings to Use Drones for Traffic Accident Investigations

The Austin Police Department is going to use drones as crash scene analysis tools, joining hundreds of public safety departments across the country.

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The Austin Police Department (APD) is launching a drone division centered on fatal traffic accident investigations, with the first of three public hearings scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 28, according to the North Austin Patch

Austin’s law enforcement is no stranger to unmanned aerial technologies, having launched the drone-centric public safety program back in February, and aerially securing and Austin bombing suspect’s home in March before sending in officers. 

We reported earlier this month that there are now 910 state and local police police departments, fire departments, and emergency services agencies taking advantage of unmanned aerial vehicles in their day-to-day operations, with crash scene analysis via drone contributing a substantial portion of that use. The APD, specifically, claims that implementing drones in crash scene investigations will decrease evidence collection time by up to 80 percent, and reduce traffic while protecting officers at the same time. 

Tuesday’s hearing will serve as an info session. Ultimately, the process is quite simple, but frayed with continuing concerns regarding privacy and handing law enforcement too much power

Camera drones provide officers with a bird’s-eye view of the scene, collect high resolution imagery serving as evidence available thereafter, and eliminating the need for lengthy, manual time and labor spent on the scene. The drones would also help assess whether or not a road needs to be shut down after an accident, or whether the collected imagery has sufficed, and clean-up can commence.

For the Austinites out there, you might benefit from attending tomorrow’s open forum at The Westin Austin Hotel at The Domain center at 6 p.m. On Wednesday, Aug. 29, APD’s South Substation will host a similar meeting, with next Wednesday’s meeting taking place at the APD East Substation. This will give you a chance to listen, learn, and provide any feedback or concerns you might have to those responsible first-hand.