The Fredericton Police Force is adding a drone to its equipment in order to help serve the community.
The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was a donation from Stephen Costello, a Fredericton-born entrepreneur who is president of Costello Utility Consultants, an engineering firm in Ontario.
“We weren’t making good use of it,” he said. “We thought that there was a better use for it here.”
The drone, an Aeryon SkyRanger R60, and its software and lenses are in the price range of $150,000, Costello said.
One lens is essentially a digital camera with a 30x optical zoom and a 60x digital zoom, he explained. The other is an infrared module, allowing the operator to “see things that are hot or cold in both daytime and nighttime (operations).”
Costello said the drone can be used in temperatures ranging from -30 to 50 C and that he’s flown the UAV in winds gusting up to 90 km/h.
“It’s capable of flying in very extreme conditions,” Costello said. “I’m not aware of any other commercial product on the market that can fly in more extreme conditions.”
Fredericton police Chief Leanne Fitch says the device will be a great addition to the force, keeping officers and citizens safe.
“More often now than ever before, we respond to both natural and man-made disasters,” she said. “We need to be prepared for those realities.”
Const. René Theriault, who is the flight team leader for the force, says the drone can be used for collision reconstruction, missing persons investigations, disaster examination and criminal pursuit, among other uses.
“You can’t beat an aerial or look-down photograph or imagery of some sort of scene, be it a crime scene or a collision scene, for how things are in relationship to each other,” Theriault said.
The force is also ensuring the privacy of residents, saying anyone who’s not involved in an investigation will not be identified.
Six officers will be trained as UAV pilots and will have to pass Transport Canada testing and exams.
“It’s one of the best of its class, and it’s made by a Canadian company,” Costello explained. “(It) is used extensively by police forces in Ontario and the RCMP.”
The force’s pilots are expecting to be able to use the drone for police operations in June.
At least two officers, a pilot and a spotter, will operate the device.
Fitch said the force has confirmed that the donation complies with ethics policies and procedures.
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