Source: Milwaukee Police in the Midst of Procuring and Using Drones

In several earlier posts, the Spingola Files (SF) reported that local police departments in southeastern Wisconsin might soon be using drones to conduct surveillance.

Last week, SF learned, through a good source, that the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) is seriously considering procuring at least four drones at a cost of $15,000 each.  While the MPD is carefully researching and considering its Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) options, a likely candidate is the Draganfly X-6 drone, which weighs less than five pounds.  These hover craft are equipped with high definition cameras and also have infrared capabilities. 

Federal law currently permits law enforcement agencies to operate drones weighing less than 30 pounds without authorization from the FAA.  The UAV operator, however, is required to maintain a line-of-sight visual of the flying object.

The Draganflyer X-6 is electric and makes little noise while hovering.  The X-6 ‘s power source is an easy to install battery pack.  When the battery runs low, a computer directs the drone to return to the operator, who then installs a fresh battery.  This particular UAV does have the capability to see through the walls of buildings with the use of infrared heat sensors.  The X-6 can also follow vehicles and zoom-in to capture its license plate, as well as images of the vehicle’s occupants.  

Last month, the Seattle Police Department announced that it is set to deploy the Draganflyer X-6. To get closer look this particular UAV, view the below link.

“The drawback to this type of drone [the X-6],” said a source “is that it can’t be operated from a remote location. Ultimately, law enforcement will want this type of capability—rendering expensive helicopters obsolete.”

Make no mistake about it, though, the smaller Draganflyer X-6 UAV is a valuable tool.  During protests or civil disturbances, the MPD could conduct surveillance of crowds, stream live video to a command center, and then store photographs and video of participants.  Operatives at the MPD’s Intelligence Fusion center, using facial recognition software, could then, in less than an hour, identify those involved by comparing photographs from Wisconsin’s Real ID biometric database—obtained from drivers’ licenses, ID cards, and/or booking photos.


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His book, Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. I, is available at

Spingola’s soon-to-be-released book, Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. II: Here’s Looking at You, is set for release in December 2012.

If your group is in need of a fascinating guest speaker, consider the Spingola Files’ Psychology of Homicide presentation.

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© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2012

12 Responses

  1. Jacob H.

    Are the people of this county willing to accept this?

    November 28, 2012 at 6:05 am

  2. Meagan

    Great. After what has been going on around UWM since late September my guess is Flynn will have his new toy drones searching for underage drinkers instead of the crooks robbing people on Humboldt Ave.

    November 28, 2012 at 6:11 am

  3. Joe

    Drones that cost $14,000? I doubt it…

    November 29, 2012 at 3:19 am

  4. Steve Spingola


    The Draganflyer X-6 starts at abou $800, but, with most of the gadgets, it is about 15k with the LE discount.

    November 29, 2012 at 4:13 am

  5. Glenn D. Frankovis

    It’s inevitable, but I still maintain that until such time as you can provide basic police service to people you can’t afford the extravagant toys or “French Connection” policing. What good are these things if you can’t provide an immediate response?

    November 29, 2012 at 3:54 pm

  6. Raul


    You’re a Tea Party guy aren’t you? I don’t understand how Flynn and the rest of those involved in buying all these toys can justify getting this “free” federal government money. Our federal debt is ready to bankrupt America. Not matter what these law enforcement bureaucrats keep gobbling up grant money like there is no tomorrow (if things go they way they’ve been going there may not be a tomorrow in the not too distant future). I’ve heard from coppers in the field that clearance rates are not going down as a result of all these toys, fusion centers being developed. While crime rates are falling the level of clearances of offenses is decreasing. What not say enough is enough and stop spending money we don’t have on this big brother stuff?

    November 29, 2012 at 4:09 pm

  7. Glenn Frankovis

    Yup, I’m a Tea Party guy. I used to be a Flynn and Chisholm guy too, but I’ve learned the error of my ways there. I’ve heard similar stories from guys I keep in touch with too, Raul. As for Flynn and the rest using federal money to buy “toys”, I have long felt (long before Flynn) that grant money is better spent on putting troops in the field by making squads 2 man. That way those working O.T. actually had to answer calls for service rather than many of the coat hangers who signed up because “it had to be FAIR” but just drove around in circles for the 4 or 8 hours they were out there. But that was just me being me. I expected people to earn their pay and wasn’t going to set up an O.T. program just so slugs could take advantage of it.

    One more thing about the Federal money, no Police Chief is ever going to turn down grant money. Even if one wanted to, his boss (usually a lefty Mayor) would crucify him if he did. It’s up to people to elect responsible politicians, and until they do this kind of spending is going to continue. I wrote “inevitable” (above) for that reason. If it’s going to happen, then it might as well be put to use properly.

    November 29, 2012 at 11:38 pm

  8. Salamone

    You are a wise observer, Mr. Frankovis. So much grant money gets pissed away because it is “free money.” Putting it into manpower makes more sense. I remember you saying once that 20% of the coppers did 80% of the work. The sad thing is a drone without batteries probably does as much work as some of the dead weight on the job. One the drone topic I don’t think it is something that is written in stone. The JS and the news channels in town are so in the tank for anything a Democrat Party official claims is true that they will report that, ‘Drones are good. No problem here.’ The people in Milwaukee are all but brain dead anyway. That 1.6 GPA the average MPS attendee receives shows up in the depth of their thoughts and beliefs in the voting booth.

    November 29, 2012 at 11:54 pm

  9. Glenn Frankovis

    I could see where a drone would work to assist in a Squad Pursuit (if there is still such a thing) or foot pursuit. Maybe in some type of drug surveillance work but unless the Department is properly staffed and Districts have the proper complement of personnel to fill squads with two Officers and put out Special “Strike” Teams and Foot Patrols in order to address the demand for service and Quality of Life issues, I can’t really see spending the money on drones.

    One thing I am sure of, you can’t do good police work without spending money – and that includes O.T.

    November 30, 2012 at 2:09 am

  10. Glenn Frankovis

    I didn’t finish that last thought, so I want to try to be clear on what I meant about good police work and spending money. Any REAL cop knows that an active Officer is going to necessarily generate O.T. with arrests; report writing (because the active copper works up until the end of his regular shift); and court related O.T. It’s unavoidable but, if the proper policing strategies and deployment are in place and supervisors who care about the mission are in place, then it can work to make neighborhoods much safer which can bring about a better quality of life for residents and an environment conducive to job growth which will lead to more tax payers and fewer takers. The solution is quite simple, yet the liberal politicians just can’t grasp it.

    (I realize this gets away from the technical aspects of the drone and the “Big Brother” argument, but it helps to explain the cost angle I was trying to make earlier.)

    November 30, 2012 at 11:31 am

  11. Mike Massa

    Hey, we always had drones on the job.

    December 6, 2012 at 4:31 am

  12. Erv

    Hey Mike, that’s true. There were many on the 7th Floor!

    December 6, 2012 at 10:54 am

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