Case Study: Police Using Drones to Track Suspects

Man in baseball cap watching drone fly by at sunset in a neighborhood

When it comes to law enforcement, the benefits of drone technology is no longer reserved for the military. Local police departments using drones to protect citizens, resolve criminal activities, and track and apprehend suspects has become increasingly common as the technology has become more accessible. Recent cases highlight the potential for police units to safely and quickly apprehend suspects with the advantages of UAV technology.

Tracking a Suspect in Barnstable


A recent example of a local police department utilizing UAVs for law enforcement took place in Barnstable County, in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

In September of 2017, Patrolman Kevin Fullam attempted to pull over a man for multiple infractions, but the driver refused to stop and drove into the parking lot of a local shopping mall. When the driver eventually stopped near Macy’s department store. The driver fled from the car, ran into the woods, and dove into a nearby pond in an attempt to evade police by hiding underwater.

The Barnstable Police Detectives established a perimeter around the pond and brought in the department’s UAV, which featured a Forward Looking Infrared camera (FLIR). This camera gave the police drone the capability to pick up heat signatures – including the heat signature of the suspect, who was spotted with his head emerging from the water near the edge of the pond.

With the police using the drone overhead, officers and K-9 units ordered the suspect out of the water; at this point, the suspect surrendered and was taken into custody.

According to the police report, a small amount of narcotics, a large amount of cash, and a loaded weapon was found in the suspect’s vehicle. He faced numerous charges, including Resisting Arrest and Failure to Stop for a Police Officer.

Courtesy of the Barnstable Police Department, you can see the police drone’s capabilities through the infrared footage of the suspect’s apprehension here.

Take Advantage of UAVs for Law Enforcement

As this example illustrates, the advantages of UAVs for law enforcement applications are undeniable. Not only can this technology help police officers resolve situations quickly and effectively, but they provide an additional sense of protection and security for the officers and suspects involved. With the threshold for police using drones lower than ever before – given their relative affordability and the ease at which they can be piloted – police departments everywhere are beginning to see UAVs as a vital resource.

At HSE, we provide the latest in UAV technology for law enforcement, including drones, infrared cameras, and pilot training. For more information about our services, please call us at 309-361-7656 or contact our team today.

“HSE is honored to have provided Barnstable with an unmanned system that really made a difference for their community on that day - we love hearing stories like that and appreciate the amazing work Barnstable does every day to keep their community safe.” -Bryan Sanders, VP of HSE-UAV.

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