Government must address concerns surrounding use of domestic drones

Government must address concerns surrounding use of domestic dronesRCMP Sgt. Dave Domoney says mini-helicopters help police take pictures from above accident scenes to aid in their investigations. In 2012, drones were used five times to overfly accidents.

The RCMP and other Canadian police forces are using aerial drones while public discussion about the rules that should govern them lags.

In the last few years, these unmanned aerial vehicles — so-called “eyes in the sky” — have been conscripted for everything from traffic control and tactical surveillance to searching for isolated marijuana grow-ops.

RCMP Cpl. Robert McDonald says the force has four units deployed in the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and in the southeast and northern areas of the province.

Unlike costly-to-purchase, expensive-to-operate aircraft and helicopters, these suitcase-sized devices controlled from a computer screen can be purchased for the price of a luxury car, and are cheap to fly.

There are a variety of models, including some that can hover at invisible heights for long periods of time collecting high-definition live-stream images, sound, thermal-images, engage in more specialized data collection, or even be equipped with firepower.

The RCMP has a score or so in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and the Northwest Territories.

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