Ohio Law Enforcement Agencies to Purchase Shared-Use Police Drones

Three Ohio counties have agreed to the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle purchase in order to conduct searches and survey crime scenes.

by Jay Skebba, The Blade, Toledo, Ohio / May 10, 2016

(TNS) -- A trio of law enforcement agencies wants to buy a small unmanned aircraft system, commonly known as a drone, to use for searches and other police work.

Toledo police Chief George Kral, Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp, and Oregon police Chief Mike Navarre signed a memorandum of understanding in March. The three departments will split the $75,399 cost for the Lockheed Martin Indago sUAS. Toledo and Oregon police would each pay 45 percent, with the sheriff’s office paying the remaining 10 percent

Chief Navarre has asked Oregon City Council for authorization to buy the drone. It was discussed Monday night at a public safety committee meeting, but no decisions were made on the purchase. The other entities would reimburse the city of Oregon. Toledo City Council and the Lucas County Commissioners have yet to discuss the matter.

“I think technology is the future,” Chief Navarre said. “These are going to be very commonplace in not just police departments, but fire departments also. The uses for unmanned aircraft in public safety are unlimited.”

He said the drone would assist in several instances, including barricade and hostage situations, fires, and search and rescue efforts, especially in the water. The three departments teaming up to buy the drone are responsible for more than 250 square miles of water between Maumee Bay and Lake Erie.

“It does from the sky in about 30 minutes what it would take a person on the ground six or seven hours to do,” Mr. Navarre said.

The model is built to military specifications and can fly in weather helicopters can’t. The drone’s infrared technology would guide firefighters, allowing them to attack the hottest spots in blazes.

Mr. Navarre said the process to obtain a certificate of authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration is under way. He also applied for a $100,000 state grant.

Training for six officers from the three departments can begin when the FAA gives its final approval, which takes about 60 days from the time the application is sent.

Mr. Kral said Toledo’s share is contingent upon Toledo City Council’s approval and the passage of the city’s capital improvement plan, but the police and fire departments are highly interested.

“We’d be remiss as police chiefs to not utilize technology when it becomes available,” Mr. Kral said. “And I’m sure once we get some success stories, we’ll find other innovative uses for them we’re not even considering right now.”

The Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office has expressed interest in joining the consortium.

©2016 The Blade (Toledo, Ohio) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.