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Seattle mayor scraps police department's drone program after strong public opposition

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Draganflyer X6 helicopter drone
Draganflyer X6 helicopter drone

Following public opposition to drone use in Seattle, city mayor Mike McGinn has decided to pull the plug on a plan to let the Seattle Police Department begin use of two drones it purchased through a federal grant. In a brief statement, the mayor said he cancelled the drone program so that the Seattle police "can focus its resources on public safety and the community building work that is the department's priority." The police's drones were 3.5-pound Draganflyer X6 six-rotor helicopters that could be equipped with either a camera for 1080p video and stills or a thermal sensor. They will be returned back to the manufacturer.

After receiving authorization from the FAA, the Seattle police department planned to use the drones to provide imagery in homicide and traffic investigations, as well as for other applications like search-and-rescue missions, situations involving hazardous materials, and natural disasters. The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington expressed concerns that the proposals were too broad, and it moved to have city ordinances put in place that would require the police department to obtain a warrant before using the drones for any purposes other than emergencies. The mayor's decision came a couple of days after some members of the public voiced strong opposition to the use of drones at public hearing on Wednesday in Seattle. The Electronic Frontier Foundation called the decision "an amazing victory for privacy advocates and drone activists" after it had called on members of the public to monitor and oppose the use of drones in civilian areas.