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Photos: Drones to patrol LA airspace?

Sheriff's department envisions using SkySeer UAV to assist in surveillance and rescue operations.
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1 of 2 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet

SkySeer drone

This little airplane is no toy--it may, in fact, soon be deputized. The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department is evaluating the SkySeer drone with an eye to using a squadron of them for surveillance and rescue operations; that would make it one of the very first law enforcement agencies to dispatch unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Pictured here at a demonstration flight Friday in Redlands, Calif., are LASD deputy Troy Sella (left) and SkySeer inventor Sam de la Torre. The aircraft has a wingspan of 6.5 feet and weighs just over 3 pounds.

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2 of 2 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet

SkySeer drone

De la Torre shows off the SkySeer's panning camera (between his hands), which transmits video images in real time. An AFP story pointed out the cost advantage the SkySeer has over a helicopter--a price between $25,000 and $30,000 apiece, compared with $3 million to $5 million per copter (the LASD has 18 of the latter). "It's basically a high-tech kite that field officers could set up in a matter of minutes," said Sid Heal, head of the LASD's Technology Exploration Project.

UAVs have become a staple of military operations in recent years--one was used in the operation that killed al-Qaida leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi earlier this month--and police agencies now envision using them over U.S. cities and borders. For more photos of UAVs, click here.

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