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Dubai police to deploy citywide network of “crime-catcher drones”

By Chris Stonor

Dubai police announced this work, it will deploy a fleet of “crime-catching drones” that can respond to an incident anywhere in the United Arab Emirates city within a minute, reports

The quadcopters, supplied by Israeli company Airobotics, are to operate from base stations during the Expo 2020 event beginning in October this year, an exhibition said to be the third largest in the world after the Olympics and football World Cup. According to a tweet from Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the drones will reduce police response time from 4.4 minutes to 1 minute.

Each base has a sliding roof that allows the craft to enter and exit. The drones can fly pre-programmed patrols or be flown to a specific location, allowing an operator at police HQ to inspect the scene or follow a suspicious individual or vehicle and pass data to other police units.

At 1.8 metres wide, the quadcopters are larger than consumer drones. The base station relays communications and incorporates a robot arm to swap out the drone’s batteries, allowing it to land and take off immediately with no delay for recharging.

Airobotics’s “drones-in-a-box” are already used at various sites in several countries, but this is the first time they have been deployed for citywide policing. In some areas, they provide security, in others, the craft carry out industrial tasks, for example, daily surveys of stockpiles of coal or phosphate from mines. Singapore deployed two Airobotics units last year to assist with covid-19 lockdown compliance measures, to check reports of gatherings of people.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum

Robert Bunker at C/O Futures, a US-based security consulting firm, commented, “Small drones are relatively cheap to purchase and maintain compared to crewed helicopters. I do see the drone ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) system as a model for other global cities.”

An Airobotics spokesperson, added, “The goal is definitely to model for other police forces globally, so they can see how this is the shortest and most efficient way to deal with emergencies.”

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