City of Louisville applies for pilot program that would use drones to respond to shootings

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The city of Louisville is hoping to be one of the first places in the country to use drones to respond to shooting scenes.

Louisville is one of 300 cities that applied for the U.S. Unmanned Aerial System Integration Pilot Program. Automated drones would respond to locations where shootings are detected by the city’s ShotSpotter application, possibly allowing the drones to capture images up to a minute before 911 is even called to report a shooting.

The automated network would be the first of its kind anywhere in the country but still needs approval from the FAA. Mayor Greg Fischer and the city hope a handful of drones could help curb crime, especially in areas where shots are often fired.

“Louisville is known as one of the most innovative cities in the country, so we said, 'You know, what’s a little edgy out there, and how can we put together some new technologies to improve public safety?'” Fischer said.

Those with detailed knowledge of the application say the drones would be in the air briefly and only when sent because of a shot spotter detection. The video streamed back would go strictly to LMPD to avoid any concerns that "big brother" could be watching from above.

“From my perspective, actually having the city blanketed in stationary cameras is a bigger privacy concern since those cameras are always on and always rolling, said Metro Chief of Civic Innovation Grace Simrall. “We concluded that if we could leverage camera technology, we could get much faster to the scene of a crime, specifically the detection of a gunshot.”

Simrall said adding more officers or more city cameras “was not cost-effective.”

The project is still in the very preliminary stages. Specifics regarding costs are not known yet. Fischer believes the drones could give more peace of mind to residents when it comes to letting officers know of an incident.

“The No. 1 issue is using all means we have to increase public safety, and if we can do it smarter with technology, we are going to do that,” he said.

Fischer added that it will be a couple months until the city learns if it’s one of the five cities chosen for the new program.

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