Louisville will fly drones to crime scenes soon, thanks to funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies.

The city is one of 35 finalists in the 2018 U.S. Mayors Challenge, which asked more than 320 applicant cities to create proposals to solve problems they face. Louisville’s application won up to $100,000 to test a plan to send drones to gunshots reported through the city’s Shotspotter system.

“We’re thrilled. It speaks to the fact that Louisville has been recognized as one of the most innovative cities,” said Grace Simrall, Louisville’s Chief of Civic Innovation and Technology. “This will help us, as a community, discuss what kind of expectations we ought to have. Not just for government use of drones, but also commercial use of drones — and private use of drones.”

Simrall said the program could aid officers, save lives and deter crime. 2016 was the deadliest year in Louisville’s recent history. There were fewer murders last year, but 385 people were still injured or killed by gunfire.

Katie Appel Duda of Bloomberg Philanthropies praised Louisville’s proposal for suggesting new uses for Shotspotter.

“That sort of bold, creative thinking is what we look for in this competition. And the replicability of it, if it’s successful is very exciting,” Duda said. “At the end of the day, this is all about learning to make these ideas bigger, stronger and more poised for impact for citizens.”

Simrall said before work begins, the city needs permission from the Federal Aviation Administration before flying the drones in Louisville. In the meantime, the program will begin test flights in Perry County, Kentucky.

The city will spend six months testing and refining the drone proposal. In October, four cities will win $1 million to continue the programs, while one grand prize winner will get $5 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies.



Kyeland Jackson is an Associate Producer for WFPL News.