How a Small Alabama Police Department Plans to Use its Drone

The Southside, Ala., police department, purchased the drone with the help of a monetary assist from a county commissioner. It plans to use it to take photos of crime scenes, help find lost hikers and more.

by Donna Thornton The Gadsden Times / March 26, 2019

(TNS) — Southside, Ala., police can put an eye in the sky now — and a voice as well — with the purchase of a drone for use by the department and the city.

Officers Kip Williams and Baylon Fry demonstrated the drone Monday morning for reporters, Mayor Wally Burns and Chief Chris Jones, but it wasn't the first time it's been used on official business.

Jones said Williams used the drone this weekend to assist DeKalb County authorities taking aerial pictures of a crime scene. That's one of many uses he sees for it.

Williams said it will be helpful in searches for missing persons, or in any type of search. Southside has a lot of wooded terrain, Jones said, and the drone can cover it quicker than people on foot.

"We often have elderly people who walk off, and get turned around," the chief said, and they need to be found quickly.

He said it should save the department a lot of manpower.

In addition to a 2800 lumen light for searches, Williams said the drone has a 100-decibel speaker, that can broadcast a prerecorded message or a live message. He demonstrated it, delivering a message through the drone of the sort that might be delivered to a lost or stranded person: "This is the Southside Police Department; remain calm, help is on the way."

Burns said he thinks the drone is a great addition to the city's resources. He said he and the council appreciated a donation from Etowah County Commissioner Joey Statum toward the purchase of the drone, which cost $3,900.

"We've talked about using it if we have drainage issues," he said, to locate problems from above. It can be used for aerial photos, and Southside is willing to share the technology with surrounding cities and law enforcement agencies, as the department did last weekend.

Williams said the drone has an infrared camera that can look for heat signatures during searches.

The drone is registered with the FAA, he said, and he and Fry will have FAA-approved training in its use.

It has a beacon visible for 3 miles, and its range — from the hand-held controller to the hovering device — is up to 5 miles, according to the box.

However, Williams noted that the FAA says the devices are not to be flown out of visual range.

©2019 The Gadsden Times, Ala. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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