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Louisville wants drones that zip to gunshot sites

The city's seeking FAA approval for a program that would dispatch camera-equipped drones to wherever there's gunfire.

Louisville could become the first US city to send automated drones equipped with cameras to gunshot sites, giving officers a live assessment of what's going on at the scene, according to Insider Louisville.


If approved, Louisville could send automated drones equipped with cameras to gunshot sites.

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The Kentucky city has submitted an application to the Federal Aviation Administration's drone innovation pilot program, which allows local, state and tribal governments to apply for zones where drone operations could go beyond recreational consumer uses. The program was established as part of a directive issued by President Donald Trump in October, which relaxed some of the rules governing commercial drone use.

Following an uptick in homicides, the city's Office of Performance Improvement & Innovation last year turned to sensor technology called ShotSpotter, which helps the Louisville Metro Police Department locate and respond to locations where gunfire is heard.  

With the new proposed plan, drones would be automated to fly to the locations identified by ShotSpotter, and camera footage from the drones would be monitored by the police.

The FAA says that at least five of the more than 300 local government applicants will be approved, according to Insider Louisville. Programs like the one Louisville has proposed could open the door to similar drone programs across the country.  

Grace Simrall, the city's chief of civic innovation and technology, told Insider Louisville the drones would provide "better tactical awareness to our officers, potentially capturing suspects or vehicles fleeing scenes of crimes, finding evidence faster, finding victims faster and providing medical attention."

While such a drone program may provoke privacy worries, Simrall said it would reduce the risk of invasions of privacy because it's "incident driven and only going and recording in response to a gunshot."   

Louisville submitted the application before the Jan. 4 deadline. The city should receive a response within 90 days, according to Insider Louisville. 

The Office of Performance Improvement & Innovation did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

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