Beavercreek and Fairborn police are among the first Dayton area police agencies to acquire unmanned aircraft systems, or drones, and to train and license officers to fly them.
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The departments join 13 other public safety agencies across the state that have acquired or are currently using drones, according to the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College.
Drone-use in public safety services skyrocketed last year, and Ohio ranks fifth in the nation among states with the most public safety agencies with drones, according to the center’s research that was published in April.
The Dayton Fire Department has acquired a drone, according to the center’s research, as well as sheriff’s offices in Auglaize, Butler, Darke and Hamilton counties.
Fairborn has bought three drones and in January two officers obtained their licenses to fly them, according to Sgt. Willard Watts.
The department paid $3,167.41 total for three Yuneec Q500 drones, according to Watts.
The drones have not been used in an actual situation or investigation, Watts said, because “we haven’t had a situation they could be put into use.”
Watts listed a few scenarios in which a drone might be used in Fairborn: Locating a suspect who flees a scene; searching for a lost child; tactical situations for reconnaissance; and possibly aiding in traffic crash investigations.
The Fairborn Police Department, which serves a population of more than 32,000 citizens, “ran into hurdles” because of the fly zones in place at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Watts said.
“We did receive a 107 waiver, which allows us to fly in some parts of the city,” he said. “We’re working to get clearance to fly anywhere within city limits.”
Beavercreek police, who serve a population of more than 45,000, made an announcement about the new drone programs on Facebook.
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“The purpose behind the program is to provide real time information for responding officers and aid in locating missing or fleeing individuals,” the Facebook post reads. “Additionally, the UAS platforms may aid in traffic crash investigations, tactical deployments and large event surveillance for safety.”
Cost information for Beavercreek’s drone program was not immediately available.
Both departments are working to add “nighttime capabilities” to the program, according to Beavercreek police.
The Police Foundation, based in Washington D.C., published in November 2016 “Community Policing and Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS): Guidelines to Enhance Community Trust.” The manual is prefaced by a letter from Ronald Davis, director of Community Oriented Policing Services with the U.S. Department of Justice, who advises that community concerns, privacy and civil rights issues “must be factored into the decisions, policies, and procedures to implement this technology.”
“People must believe that drone usage not only will make them safer, but that the equipment will not make it easier to violate their civil liberties — or crash into their homes,” Davis’ letter reads.
Public Safety Agencies in Ohio using drone technology
Source: Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College