Brookhaven in Georgia will use drones to respond to 911 calls and emergencies and to conduct investigations as part of their first responder program. It will be the first city in the southeast to do so.
A drone will respond to your 911 call in Brookhaven, GA
Funding for the Brookhaven Police Department’s UAS (unmanned aerial system) unit was approved by the city on Tuesday night. The unit consists of four drones that can be deployed by the police to witness crimes in progress, document crime scenes, or provide a bird’s eye view for officers on the ground, reports the Wahoo Newspaper.
Even though not every 911 call will be responded with a drone, the unmanned aircraft offer the police department more flexibility, availability, and information, all while reducing in-person contact amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s literally a game-changer,” Brookhaven police Lt. Abrem Ayana said at a city meeting Tuesday night.
Brookhaven will become the second city in the country that adds police drones to its 911 response program. The first was the Chula Vista Police Department in California, which added drones under the UAS Integration Pilot Program in 2018.
Ayana added that police drones can potentially prevent police chases, catch criminals in the act, and determine when 911 calls don’t require a police officer to respond.
According to the Chula Vista police department drones have helped in more than 275 arrests and 650 calls for service that in the end did not require a police officer’s presence.
According to the city of Brookhaven, a drone response only costs 10% of the cost of dispatching an officer in a patrol vehicle. In addition, drones can get to the desired location much faster since they will not be held up by traffic. The Brookhaven drone program should be able to cover about 70% of the city, according to Ayana. Some areas are off-limits because of the DeKalb-Peachtree Airport nearby and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) restrictions.
All of the drones used by the police department in Brookhaven are equipped with a normal and a thermal camera. The video feed from the drones is live-streamed directly to the department’s crime center from where information can be relayed to officers on the ground.
“It takes a lot of the hide-and-seek aspect out of hide-and-seek,” Ayana said. “We’re going to see a lot more suspects identified in crimes because a drone is going to get there first and provide information.”
The city of Brookhaven plans to train 12 more operators to get them FAA certified under Part 107.
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