The Washington State Patrol (WSP) has been honored by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) as the 2020 International winner of the Innovative Use of Technology Award. The WSP was nominated for and won, the regional award, and moved forward to the international award. The WSP is proud of the efforts and successes made to leverage technology in pursuit of our goal to accomplish the mission of “Making a difference every day, enhancing the safety and security of our state by providing the best in public safety services.”

The WSP employed the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) in 2017 in a pilot program. The pilot program concluded in 2018, with what Detective Sergeant Clint Thomas called “Overwhelming success.” The UAV program reduced collision investigation times, which in turn saved money, and opened roads quicker. This reduction in road closure time saved approximately $600,000 in economic impact, during only the pilot program period.  

In 2018, the program was expanded and made a permanent investigative resource for WSP investigators.  During the 2018 calendar year, UAVs were used in more than 165 collision/crime scene investigations, saving over $6 million in economic impact from road-closure delays.  Not only has this investigative tool aided in reducing closure times, but it also helps to provide increased forensic scene reconstruction capabilities not previously possible from other investigative tools.

The use of UAVs in collision investigation has the added benefits of increased safety for Troopers, as they are not in the roadway.  By leveraging UAV technology, investigators no longer are required to hand measure and interact with scene evidence, which presents risks and delays in the investigative process.  An additional benefit is the ability to capture the scene evidence in some instances without full lane closures, allowing traffic to continue to flow, which reduces secondary collisions and traffic back-ups.

The WSP continues to develop and refine the program to ensure the most effecent and effective processes are available to investigators.  At the time of this award, it is believed that the WSP has the largest law enforcement fleet of UAVs in the country, with over 130 UAVs and trained pilots to operate them. The WSP would like to thank the AAMVA for recognizing the great work the employees of the WSP are doing to reach our vision to “be the best public safety agency in the United States.”