Guelph police have eye in the sky with new drone

Members of the Guelph police RPAS team demonstrate the drone at the former Turfgrass Institute. Ken Hashizume/CJOY

A new aerial tool is being deployed by the Guelph Police Service.

Guelph police unveiled the remotely piloted aircraft system program Thursday afternoon at the former Turfgrass Institute on Victoria Road South.

The program consists of a highly sophisticated drone that will be used to help police in a variety of situations.

“We see this as being very good in cases of missing person searches and evidence searches,” said Staff Sgt. Mike Davis.

“We’ll also use it for collision reconstruction and may use it for some surveillance and tactical operations.”

The drone is a DJI Matrice M30T equipped with high resolution and thermal cameras, a laser range finder system, and dual speaker/spotlight payloads. It can fly with a maximum height of 400 feet, has a 15-kilometre flight range, and can fly for over 40 minutes.

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“It could cover a large area at once,” Davis said. “We’ve had tremendous success in clearing large fields or bush areas very quickly without having officers go into those situations.”

The drone program costs $25,000. That includes the drone and training for the officers.

Every officer in the program is a certified pilot with a certificate from Transport Canada. They will also be required to complete a minimum amount of flying hours to maintain their proficiency.

Guelph police have been using the drone for less than a year and it has already been credited in finding a person in distress, a man who was described as intoxicated and in an area he didn’t know.

“There was concern for his safety,” Davis said. “The drone was put in the air and the man was found in very short-order.”

Davis said the thermal camera on the drone allows police to identify areas of concern and direct officers and resources to a specific area. The drone’s high resolution camera has the ability to pick up fine details from the ground.

While the drone can enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of policing, it can also raise privacy issues. Davis said they have conducted privacy impact assessments ensuring that all privacy risks are considered and appropriate actions are taken.

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Davis said the drone will only be used where legal authority already exists or when judicial authority has been obtained. He said police will usually post on X whether a drone is being deployed by police at the time.


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