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In Switzerland, police find a use for drones

The Zurich police force tests out one of its two drones. (Courtesy of Marco Bisa)
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Earlier this month, the Zurich police department began using a drone to take aerial photos of accidents. The drone is most useful for accidents that occur over a large span — such as those involving a crane or train — where in the past it was difficult to photograph an entire accident scene.

The police department bought the drone in partnership with the Zurich department of geomatics and surveying, which wants to update its 3D map of the city. A spokesman said the 3D model is helpful for noise and pollution calculations as well as city planning. The groups first experimented with a drone in the summer of 2013, and soon realized they had an affordable way to survey land.

The drone has the advantage of easily surveying inaccessible areas, such as rivers and anything overgrown with vegetation. The department of geomatics and surveying said it also may use the drone for measuring landslides.

The Zurich police said they won’t be using the drone to monitor citizens or public events.

Police in Bern, Switzerland, also have begun using a drone, mainly to capture overhead images of serious accidents. At times, the Bern police use the drone to photograph fires to aid investigations.

A spokeswoman said Bern’s drone could be used to investigate environmental crimes by, for example, taking 3D measurements of land to determine the presence of an illegal landfill.