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Hanover Is Massachusetts’ First Town to Get FAA Approval for Drone Program

Of the six licensed pilots in Hanover, some are representatives from the police and fire departments.

(TNS) — Hanover just became the first town in Massachusetts to have licensed pilots and an approved drone for town operations.

The small town in Plymouth County was approved by the Federal Aviation Administration for a new drone program with certified pilots to help town officials in daily operations. Of the six licensed pilots in Hanover, some are representatives from the Hanover police and fire departments. The town's local television station is working on a documentary about drones.

In towns and cities, drones — otherwise known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) — can be used to help residents in innovative ways: the flying devices can help officials combat fires, find missing people and children, and detect other kinds of information, according to the Association of Professional Drone Pilots. The town's fire chief, Jeffrey Blanchard, noted that his crew will be able to watch for forest fires and tall buildings without jeopardizing any firefighter.

"Hanover is a leader in many areas — from transparency to financial organization and stability, to its commitment to education. The approval of our drone program is just another way we're bringing efficiency, technology, and collaboration to our citizens," Town Manager Troy Clarkson said in a statement.

The use of drones by law enforcement agencies is not a new concept. Many municipalities have yet to implement drones in the way Hanover has, largely in part because they can be politically polarizing.

The American Civil Liberties Union has extensively reported on the negative effect increased state surveillance could have on individual privacy, despite well-intentioned law enforcers.

While Hanover's use of drones intends to help local law enforcement departments, other states are aiming for the new machine to play a much larger role. In Connecticut, lawmakers are debating a bill that would allow drones to release "less lethal" weapons like tear gas or even bombs. The Associated Press reports that North Dakota is the only state to permit the use of weaponized drones, while Maine and Virginia ban police from using armed drones.

©2017, Springfield, Mass. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.