Hundreds of fines have been issued by police in Bordeaux, France this summer as the result of a pilot program utilizing drones to monitor traffic. Cheaper and quieter than helicopter surveillance, drones provide near equal capabilities for capturing video and images of motorists committing infractions. Also, the birds eye view of roadways provides a more objective view than parked patrol cars are capable of, making it a more efficient tool for spotting illegal lane changes and aggresive driving.
Although the drones can detect aberrations in driving behavior, they don't have the ability to detect speeding yet. A stationary camera or a patrol officer will still be necessary for that, but once an infraction has been detected a car or motorcycle cop can be dispatched to pull over the motorist in question.
Not everyone is excited about the police-use of drones for surveillance. Lobbying group 40 Millions D'Automobilistes' Executive Director Pierre Chasseray stated that between the speeding cameras and the drones, it is too much for motorists to take in. "Just think, instead of encouraging drivers to keep their eyes on the road, we now have to look at the side of the road for speed cameras and now in the air for drones," said Chasseray.
In the United States, Police drones have mostly been used for accident reporting and forensics, even facing kickback from local activist groups when utilized for surveillance. It remains to be seen if this will become a global phenomenon, but the French authorities have already considered expanding the program to outside Bordeaux.