As Drone Use In Law Enforcement Grows, Bozeman Explores Options

Jul 1, 2019

Bozeman’s Police and Fire Chiefs will discuss how drones could be used to make Montana’s fastest growing city safer at a public meeting Tuesday night. Some state agencies and cities in Montana are already using the technology.

The Bozeman Police and Fire Departments are exploring how drones could be used to photograph large, outdoor crime scenes and vehicle crashes, provide aerial coverage for hostage situations, and speed-up search and rescue missions.

The Montana Highway Patrol has been using drones to take photos and videos of crash scenes since February 2018. Earlier this year the agency adopted software that can turn the drone’s images into highly detailed and accurate maps.

“We use the measurements and the photographs to basically reconstruct a crash," says Sergeant Sean Hazelton. He says the drones save his department a lot of time.

“Using basically physics, we can determine the speeds of these vehicles at impact which is really important for when we’re determining which vehicle’s at fault or which vehicle may have been breaking a certain law,” says Hazelton.

Montana’s current drone law says law enforcement must have a warrant before they use a drone that could provide evidence in court. The 2019 Montana Legislature approved a bill, which starting October will exempt vehicle crash scenes on public roads.

Montana Highway Patrol currently has nine drones throughout the state and almost 20 troopers who are certified by the Federal Aviation Administration to be pilots. 

The Bozeman Police and Fire Departments will host a discussion on drone use for public safety at the Bozeman Public Library Tuesday from 4:30 to 6 pm.