By Brett Gillin
Protests and riots can be a tricky thing to handle. Just ask any officer who has had the unenviable task of running “crowd control” and they’re sure to tell you that while most protests are peaceful, there is always the danger of the scene turning south, quickly. Once that happens, things can get out of hand in a matter of minutes.
Police in northern India, where protests are far more likely to turn violent (and quickly) than in the U.S. have deployed a new tactic for helping their officers stay safe and disperse crowds that get violent quickly: drones.
Police in the city of Lucknow have recently purchased five drones for use by the department. Each of these drones can carry two cameras and two kilos of non-lethal pepper spray, according to this article in The Mirror. Yashasvi Yadav, the police chief in Lucknow, recently told reporters that these new drones have already been successful in practice runs in a range of conditions.
“The results were brilliant,” Yadav told reporters with Yahoo News. “We have managed to work out how to use it to precisely target the mob in winds and congested areas.”
When explaining why the department turned to these drones as a means to deal with violent protests, Yadav told reporters “Pepper is non-lethal but very effective in mob control. We can spray from different heights to have maximum results.”
The drones are operated remotely by a trained officer, but they must be within a couple miles in order to effectively operate the drones. Police in Lucknow have been using drones for a few years already, but purely for surveillance and monitoring. This will be the first time the drones are used for direct interactions with crowds.
The drones cost less than $10,000 each, which would be easy to justify if they help save any officers lives. Even a lessening of property damage in the next unruly protest could pay quick dividends for the department. The plan is to have each of these drones fully operational and in the skies by the end of the month.