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U.S. Georgia city police to deploy drones for 911 calls

By Chris Stonor

U.S. Georgia City officials have approved funding for the Brookhaven Police Department’s Unmanned Aerial System unit, to purchase four drones which can respond and be deployed for 911 calls, reports usnews.com.  Brookhaven plans to train and obtain FAA licences for 12 operators. The city is the first in the southeast to adopt a first responder program using the craft.

Each is equipped with a camera that records and streams HD video to the department’s crime centre, where an officer can relay information to police on the ground. The drones are also capable of thermal imaging, which can spot suspects at night.

Lt. Abrem Ayana, said, “It takes a lot of the hide-and-seek aspect out of hide-and-seek. We’re going to see a lot more suspects identified in crimes because a drone is going to get there first and provide information.”

Police will deploy the craft to witness crimes in progress, document crime scenes or provide an overhead view for officers on the ground.

Brookhaven police said the project will give its officers more flexibility, availability and information, while limiting in-person contact during the coronavirus pandemic. Ayana added, “It’s literally a game changer.”

Brookhaven will become the first city outside of California to adopt the program. Chula Vista Police Department began using drones in 2018 and it has credited the program with more than 275 arrests and 650 calls for service that ended up not needing an officer’s presence.

Brookhaven estimates a drone response costs around 10 percent of what it would for dispatching an officer and patrol vehicle. Police said drones can respond much faster, since they can bypass traffic. Ayana explained that drones will have access to about 70% of the city due to Federal Aviation Agency restrictions at DeKalb-Peachtree Airport.

The drone unit’s creation will cost the city approximately USD83,700 in its first year and about USD22,600 in annual recurring costs. The city will pay for the project using coronavirus relief funds, saying that the drones will decrease human interaction, potentially limiting the spread of the virus. The city said this unit is not expected to be operational until next year.

Brookhaven’s program will expand the number of situations in which drones are deployed, including first-time 911 calls and real-time emergency responses.

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(News Source: https://www.usnews.com)

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