Houston, Miami Police Test UAVs

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Will news helicopters and traffic spotters soon be mixing it up with police drones? That’s one of many questions that will have to be answered as the FAA asks the Miami and Houston police forces to try out unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) "in urban environments" for tasks like search and rescue and spotting traffic hazards. And since the policy has been to close large tracts of airspace to normal traffic when UAVs are in the air, another question on the minds of pilots in both cities might be how these tests will affect their activities. Whatever the ramifications, the tests are scheduled to last until June and Houston’s assistant police chief Martha Montalvo told the Houston Chronicle they are preliminary. "At this point, the project is strictly on a research level," she said. Montalvo said the project has been turned over to the department’s helicopter pilots in the assumption they’re best suited to the job. "Because of their knowledge base, we thought the training curve would be a lot easier," Montalvo said. There was no word on what the pilots thought of the career change. The aircraft they’ll be "flying" is being provided free by the manufacturer, Insitu Inc., of Bergen, Wash. Insitu makes small UAVs with wingspans up to about 10 feet and all-up weights around 30 pounds.