Pioneering Policing: Olean Cops Harness DJI Drone Power

In an initiative backed by the Cattaraugus Region Community Foundation (CRCF), the city of Olean, New York will soon add a DJI drone to their arsenal. Mayor Bill Aiello expressed his surprise at the small size of the unarmed drone.

Equipped with visible light and infrared imaging cameras, the drone is a testament to the increasing adoption of such devices by law enforcement agencies, with the State Police initiating drone deployment in 2018.

Acknowledging a $1,500 grant from the CRCF in August 2022, city officials spurred efforts for additional funding, culminating in the drone's procurement earlier this month. With drone acquisition comes concerns of privacy rights, prompting aldermen to demand policies for drone usage.

An increasing number of national groups urge written policies and limits on drone usage, both inside and outside law enforcement circles. Civil liberties groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, propose stringent usage limits and suggest banning the deployment of weapons on law enforcement drones.

Mayor Aiello reassured citizens that the drone won't be used for extensive surveillance and emphasized that the police would have a proper policy in place before the drone's usage. He also highlighted the legalities around drone operation, such as obtaining a Remote Pilot Certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and recurrent online training every 24 months.

Police officers Dylan Ensell and Ron Richardson spearheaded the acquisition efforts, emphasizing the role of in timely and effective responses to critical incidents. Ensell cited a 2021 instance where a drone enabled the safe evacuation of children during a domestic dispute, illustrating the potential utility of drone technology.

“They leveraged their drone to be able to get a look inside of the residence, without putting any of their officers in danger. They had observed via the drone that the individual was highly intoxicated and had fallen asleep, at which point they were able to safely evacuate the children,” Ensell explained.

The drone, bought without burdening taxpayers, was financed through grants from various foundations, including the United Way of Cattaraugus County's Bill and Cathy Fraser grant program, the Stitt Foundation, and the Cutco Foundation.

Emphasizing the device's significance, Karen Niemic Buchheit, CRCF Executive Director, said, “This piece of equipment will be a huge help to our local in times of need.”

Photo courtesy of Cattaraugus Region Community Foundation


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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of DroneXL.co, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and EVXL.co, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ dronexl.co or @hayekesteloo.

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