Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) in the Local Public Safety Environment

Taylor, Hiram Jr., Kwan-Lamar Blount-Hill and Charles R. Jennings (2016). Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) in the Local Public Safety Environment: A Review. New York, NY: Christian Regenhard Center for Emergency Response Studies, John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

This paper reviews the basic characteristics and capabilities of unmanned aerial systems–also called “unmanned aerial vehicles” (UAVs), “remotely piloted aircrafts (RPAs), or simply “drones”–and the potential that they bring in improving first responder operations. Technological innovation is expanding rapidly, and new capabilities may emerge for public safety. Autonomous systems are a particular trend that may alter the efficacy of UAS for public safety. Development of policy, capture of data on effectiveness, and evaluation of outcomes are necessary to permit further adoption. However, fears and misunderstandings by both the general public and local policymakers pose real limits to adoption of UAS technology into state and local public safety systems. By outlining the limitations of this technology, the gaps in understanding and harnessing its potential, and the legitimate points of concern in its use, this report addresses the informational void.