UAS’ for Improving City Operations

At a rapid pace, drones are becoming a reality in many parts of our lives, and regardless of what your thoughts are about them, they will be the reality very soon. The question is not whether you want them, but rather how to implement them in a way that will not only benefit the government, but more important, how to benefit the people, and how to use them to impower a city’s residents.

Once the Orwellian and military stigma of drones are diminished, the benefits of drones are endless. Expressing that drones are used by the military, therefore for civil purposes will be Orwellian is not only counterintuitive, but emotional based. The reality is that many aspects of our society have benefited from advancements from the military. For example, the commercial aviation industry started when former WWI aircraft bombers came back and where repurposed to fly US postal services, which later flourished into commercial passenger service. Biofuels are another example. The military needed a safer alternative to fossil fuels that could be self-supplied in military bases, preventing solders from entering in dangerous areas to pick up oil and gas shipments. This created a growth in development into biofuels in the military, that later became transferred into the civil use of biofuels we are beginning to see.


The reality of drone use, or more technically speaking, UAV’s is that it can be implemented in a way that not only benefit city services, but also will impower its residents by giving more transparency providing a system of checks and balances becoming a win-win for both parties. Having an autonomous drone network used by city services for police and fire rescue would dramatically lower city costs (saving taxpayers) and reduce crime, by making a safer and more efficient police and fire dispatch system. Once a crime is committed, and/or a call is placed, a drone can be dispatched automatically to that location within seconds, allowing for police to know what to expect when they arrive, so they know what type of action needed ahead of time by seeing the specifics while the crime is happening, rather than arrive after the fact. That prior knowledge would reduce many actions that lead to fatalities and questionable police shootings.

The benefit to the people is that as the drone is recording footage from above, what happened before the police get there, during and after will all be recorded and available to the public (once the investigation is deemed safe to release the footage) which no other technology can offer. Also, all the information in regard to when, what time, for what reasons the drone is dispatched, and its flight path will be available online at a designated site open to the public for full transparency. Knowing what time, a crime was committed, and only sending a drone to that location after the crime, with a timestamp, and all the information available on a website instantaneously will impower the residents to provide the checks and balances needed to give the foundation of trust.


For fire rescue, an infrared sensor can be attached to the drone being dispatched to the fire within seconds, allowing precise information on what type of fire and exactly which roads the engines need to use to get to the fire, saving precious seconds. This will allow firefighters to know exactly where the hotspots are, allowing to further speed the response. Aside from that, the eyes from above will let the firefighters know what type of roof damage is occurring providing that extra safety factor.

$$Costs and Funding$$

The highlights of costs are as follows, and to compare, I have helicopter costs as well. By no means will this replace helicopters, however, it can be well integrated with helicopters.

Drone Costs:

Acquisition: $12,000- $60,000
Operation: approximately $25/hr
Storage: Dependent on use of drones but can be at no cost if stored in a car or at a designated area at each police station, for example.
Insurance: Analysts report that insurance costs for law enforcement officers and firefighters could reduce largely due to increase of safety the drones provide.
Training: for a 40 hr drone pilot license, costs range from $3000-$5000, however certain manufacturers can cover many of the training costs.


Acquisition: $600,000- $1million
Operation: from $245-600/hr
Storage: $300-500/month
Insurance: $30,000/year

With that information, let’s say you put two drones for each police district, at $60,000 each, it would be $3 million (25 districts), and 1 per fire station (since there are more stations) for all 92 stations, $5.5 million. To cover the total city with drones, it would cost $8.5 million.

While operational costs would be minimal, the concept of having an operational control center would be under a contract through a company with existing operations and a similar that the military currently uses, which can be converted for military use.

The US congress has approved $600 million to drones and $350 million to states through the Homeland Security Grant Program, however that was information from 2015. There is currently another bill in the US Senate as part of the overall FAA reauthorization bill S.1405, projected to pass soon that has extensive language on UAV’s for public use and having a drone airspace system.

Since UAV usage for city services has not become implemented yet, it is difficult to put precise costs and savings to this, however the reduced crime, more efficient police and fire fighting use, would drastically reduce the city costs, as well as insurance costs for police officers and firefighters. The costs savings would be instrumental on many aspects as the crime rate would be reduced.


  • To implement a city-wide drone program for police and fire rescue and overtime develop a centralized command center .
  • Any drone program implemented must have transparency measures in place listed above to empower the residents to make sure the program is doing what is intended for it to do.
  • That any drone program to be implemented not replace jobs, or replace human judgment. A drone pilot must be in control just in case the drone’s automation fails and also for judgment of the situations.
  • To prevent any hacking, a drone program must be safe. The city must mandate that any infrastructure to be compliant with stringent federal processing standards (FIPS) cyber security levels.