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Eyes in the sky: 3 new Vancouver police drones could be flying by year’s end

The Vancouver Police Department has unveiled three new drones it intends to use in its investigations, and addresses privacy concerns. Grace Ke reports.

Residents of Vancouver could soon look up to see an eye in the sky, operated by the Vancouver police.

The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) says it’s bought three drones for use in police work, and is taking a new internal drone-use policy to the city’s police board on Thursday for approval.

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Drone donated to Fredericton Police Force
Drone donated to Fredericton Police Force

The department says the new policy was developed with input from a variety of stakeholders, including Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner and the BC Civil Liberties Association.

It says the drones will be used for a variety of purposes, including vehicle collisions, crime scene reconstruction, search and rescue and disaster zone analysis.

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The department says it will not use the drones for surveillance.

However, the policy does outline potential for drone use for “critical incident / tactical awareness.”

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Kingston Police ready with drone
Kingston Police ready with drone
“During critical incidents, when there is a high degree of risk to life, [drones] can safely provide real time images of hazards, suspects, locations of interest and viable entry/exit ways,” states the policy.
“[Drones] can also capture and disseminate real time video imagery that may be used by Command to help determine a basis for a safe resolution of the incident.”

The policy also lays out potential to use the equipment during hazmat incidents where it may not be safe for people to investigate.

Vancouver police
Vancouver police Vancouver police

The new drones for police work include one larger FLIR SkyRanger and two smaller Mavic 2 Enterprise units. The VPD has also squired three Spark drones for training purposes.

In total, the drones, accessories, training and insurance are valued at more than $141,000, but the department will pay just $41,068.29 due to a grant from the Vancouver Police Foundation.

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The VPD says if the policy is approved, it plans to have the equipment in operation by the end of the year.