When it comes to making arrests and finding missing people, the Police in Flushing Township, Michigan, will soon have a new tool at their disposal in the form of a DJI Matrice 30 Thermal police drone.
At its meeting on January 12, the Board of Trustees for Flushing Township gave its approval for the purchase of a drone from Unmanned Vehicle Technologies (UVT), which will cost approximately $16,000 in addition to the cost of Part 107 training for its remote pilots.
The police department of the township will use a DJI Matrice 30 Thermal model, which is a lightweight, portable drone with an infrared system, multiple high-resolution cameras, and the ability to take pictures and videos.
The use of Drone Technology has already demonstrated its value to the police in Flushing Township. At the end of October, law enforcement officers were conducting a search for an elderly woman diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, who had become lost after leaving her residence.
To help in the search for the missing woman, the township police department requested the assistance of the Clio Police Department, which sent its police drone to search the area for the woman.
Chief Dennie VanAlstine of the Flushing Township Police Department said that because the police drone had a thermal imaging system, it was able to find the woman in less than two minutes after it was sent into the air.
“You can pick up things with the thermal camera that you're not going to see with the naked eye, which saves a lot of manpower and hours,” he said.
Fred Thorsby, the township's supervisor, stated that the municipality will be more than happy to add the drone as a tool for carrying out Search and Rescue operations.
“Typically, if you're searching with a K-9 unit for a missing child or person, you don't want the police traipsing around and messing up the track,” he said. “You can fly the drone out there and you're not going to affect the dog or interfere with the tracks or scent.”
VanAlstine stated that his department will also have a tactical advantage when attempting to apprehend suspects, especially when doing so at night or in a rural area, because they will have access to a drone.
“If someone commits an armed robbery and runs into a wooded area, we can pop the drone up and find them, which makes it safer for the officers when we go to arrest the subject,” he said.
Thorsby indicated that in addition to its use for law enforcement, the township might consider employing the drone for certain code enforcement scenarios that involve search warrants.
However, both Thorsby and the members of the township board have stated that they will need to develop a stringent policy for the use of drones in order to ensure that privacy concerns and the standards set by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are met.
DJI Matrice 30 Thermal is the ideal police drone
“We have to make sure we're not preemptively spying on residents with the drone, so we should have guidelines in place before that thing ever touches the sky,” said Trustee Bill Bain. “One thing we could have is a log-in sheet to show us when it's been used for a warrant that was issued or something like a search and rescue.”
Officers in Flushing Township will be required to undergo Part 107 training and obtain a certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) before they can use the drone while on the job.
According to VanAlstine, two officers working the day shift and two officers working the night shift have been chosen to participate in the training.
The DJI Matrice 30 Thermal police drone comes with a one-year warranty that can be updated annually through UVT. This warranty will be included in the purchase price.
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