Police in Germany launch large-scale drone project

North Rhine-Westphalia will equip the police with a total of 106 quadrocopters from 2021. They will also be used for the „pursuit of offenders“.

In Germany, more and more police authorities use quadrocopters, mainly to monitor the scene of violent crimes or after traffic accidents. The surveillance of political assemblies does occur, but these missions are still rare. Saxony first acquired small drones over ten years ago and flew them at football matches and demonstrations. In Lower Saxony, a quadrocopter once flew during a nuclear waste transport. In Freiburg, a special operations team recently brought quadrocopters to a house eviction.

Other missions took place this year during the first lockdown in spring. Police in Hesse and Bavaria launched quadrocopters to patrol Corona restrictions in parks, and they are also said to have been used on the island of Rügen. However, it is not known whether any footage was collected and processed in these operations. In North Rhine-Westphalia, drones with loudspeakers flew over green spaces to instruct the public.

In the future, however, police drone operations are likely to increase significantly. The pioneer is the police in North Rhine-Westphalia, which will receive a total of 106 quadrocopters from 2021.

The focus will continue to be on the preservation of evidence or the recording of traffic accidents; many aerial vehicles will therefore be delivered to the forensic investigation units and the crime scene survey group of the State Criminal Police Office. An image video also mentions traffic observation or operations for the water police as intended uses.

The riot police will also receive 76 drones. According to the Minister of the Interior, Herbert Reul, they could take to the skies to „pursue criminals“.

The drones will be supplied by the Chinese manufacturer DJI. They will receive a software update for authorities and organisations with security tasks, with which data streams can be encrypted, for example. This configuration for „police-specific use“ increases the price of a drone of the type „Matrice 210 V 2 Enterprise“ to 16,944 euros.

The federal state is estimating the total costs for 2019 and 2020 at 607,900 euros. 276 police officers are trained as „remote pilots“ to control the aircraft.

Image: Drone in „police optics“ (LZPD North Rhine-Westphalia).

Autor: Matthias Monroy

Knowledge worker, activist, editor of the German civil rights journal Bürgerrechte & Polizei/CILIP.