Technology 5 min read

Hoverbikes, Drones and Data: 3 Ways Global law Enforcement is Using Tech

Gaia Conventi |

Gaia Conventi |

What do hoverbikes, predictive data, and drones have in common?

These three things, formerly limited to sci-fi stories and movies, could become integral in the pursuit of criminals. In fact, you might not even need to wait until 2020 to see their integration.

The present reality of law enforcement might resemble what was depicted in Minority Report years ago more than you think.

Global Law Enforcement Already Uses Future TechClick To Tweet

Russian Developed Hoverbikes Make Take off in Dubai

Dubai is home to some of the most interesting and the tallest building in the world: The Burj Khalifa. This building looks straight out of a science fiction novel cover, but that’s not the only thing sci-fi related in Dubai lately.

Dubai is implementing autonomous flying taxis before anywhere else. What’s more, they are building a proto-Martian city model to begin studying life in a different environment. You can read about those developments here and here, respectively.

The recent hoverbike debuted at the Gulf Information Technology Exposition. Russian transportation company Hoversurf developed the “Scorpion” hoverbike for Dubai Police.

The design is similar to vehicles from games like Mass Effect and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. But this one features four exposed turbines or propellers that many say could become dangerous to riders or passersby. After watching the debut trailer, I think I agree with them.

It can support up to 660 pounds of cargo and can travel up to 45 mph. However, it can only travel for about 25 minutes on a single charge. Designed for emergencies, the bike will only be used in case of situations with difficult to reach locations (like a crowded highway).

Drones: The Good, the Bad, & The Morally Grey

Despite the proliferation of civilian drones, many people are still concerned about widespread drone use by military and police personnel. To deal with the public perception of “drones”, many police units refer to them as “unmanned aerial units” instead. After new regulations from the FAA, the market for police drones expanded. Markets and Markets predicted the industry to grow to $28.27 billion by 2020.

Citizens in Los Angeles raised concerns over the expanded use of drones in police work. Their reasons: it’s a slippery slope from camera-toting drones doing surveillance to becoming spies and then becoming militarized. Despite proposed regulations to limit the impact of drones on civilians, a citizen group argues that “mission creep” is happening, regardless.

After all, if a drone is pursuing a fleeing criminal and captures images while flying across a school, business, or neighborhood, what happens to that footage? Does the police unit get to keep them and review them, potentially invading the privacy of the innocent citizens or even serving warrants?

The Stop LAPD Spying Coalition thinks so. Beyond spying, concerns of militarizing drones have risen, too, since an incident in Dallas last year. A non-flying drone shot down a suspected sniper to protect citizens but raised legitimate concerns over safety.

Some neighborhood citizens and HOAs want to ban drones or heavily regulate them. The reasons are similar: spying, potential damages, and potential invasions of privacy. 

Due to the escalating nature of technology and the inevitable, increased integration of Industry 4.0, these concerns will have to be addressed sooner rather than later.

Precognition in the Real World: Predictive Policing

Many people are familiar with Minority Report or, at least, the short story by Philip K. Dick off of which the popular 2000’s movie is based. It follows a cop (played by Tom Cruise in the movie) who oversees the “Precog” division.

This group of agents follows the predictive visions of three “precogs” to catch criminals and murderers before they can commit these criminal acts. The system seems foolproof, but, as the story unfolds, it shows that not only can the person in the vision change their mind and NOT commit the act, the precogs’ visions can also be altered to hide evidence.

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LoboStudioHamburg | Pixabay

Now, we don’t have psychic, future-telling teenagers, but we do have ever-increasingly more accurate predictive data.

The goal is the same as in Minority Report: to stop crime BEFORE it happens. But how realistic is this goal in 2017?

Through monitoring social media activity and other online movements, Big Data™ is hoping to help police predict crime. It all revolves around “reoffender forecasting”.

Portland University and the Kansas City Police Department both tested the theory. After reviewing data, they contacted potential reoffenders to inform them of increased watch or police activity in hopes to reduce criminal activity.

In the case of the Kansas City No Violence Alliance, this also included finding better housing or jobs for the possible reoffenders.

Not only did this program help the KCPD identify 60 criminal goings-on, it is hypothesized that they reduced homicides by 20%. The trouble with this is that, as we’ve noted before, predictive algorithms can be subject to both human bias and misinterpretation of data.

Pros, Cons, & Implications

image of human brain for article on hoverbikes, drones, and predictive data and how global law enforcement uses future tech already
Seanbatty | Pixabay

Social media is just one facet of a human’s life. In fact, research has shown the social media is not a good indicator of human behavior. We also know that predictive algorithms can easily misclassify.

What these early adoptions mean is that we will (hopefully) answer questions surrounding them before Skynet takes over or we blot out the sun.

Which of these three tech additions could benefit police work the most? Which of them pose the biggest threat to civilian safety?

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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