Police Chief Wants Robot Drones To Patrol Over St. Louis

ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)– The science-fiction movie “Robocop” was set in 2029. But the St. Louis Police Department’s request for robot drones to patrol the skies might make you believe a “Robocop” future could be here sooner than later.

City police Chief Sam Dotson says he hopes that robot surveillance drones could be patrolling the skies over St. Louis within a year.

When most people think about drones, they think about the predator and reaper drones armed with hellfire missiles that strike at Taliban areas in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

But the newest generation of surveillance drones don’t carry weapons. And they’re small ranging from the size of a small desk to a coffee cup.

The St. Louis Police Department has asked the Federal Aviation Administration for permission to use those kinds of unmanned surveillance vehicles. Chief Dotson doesn’t like to use the word drone.

Among them, looking for vehicles fleeing police and using the drone’s cameras to patrol high-crime areas.

Right now the only rules governing drones come from the FAA which says they can’t be used for commercial purposes and have to fly below 400 feet.

Rules on everything else, including privacy, would come from internal police guidelines. If the FAA approves, drones could be used by the St. Louis Police Department by next summer.

Chief Dotson says cost is a big factor. A helicopter costs between two $2-2.5 million. A surveillance drone can cost less than $10,000.