Police are taking to the skies to help solve crimes and to save lives.
For nearly six years, a dedicated crew with the Barrie Police Service has been launching an Aeryon SkyRanger R60 to provide them with another visual perspective and assistance in a range of policing duties.
“We can see so much from the air,” said Sgt. Christopher Allport of the Barrie police traffic unit, which uses the drone or unmanned aerial vehicle unit.
The drone can be sent into a situation ahead of a tracking dog, for instance, to alert the arriving crew of any dangers or suggest a certain direction to follow, based on the images it generates.
Through the drone and related software officers can gather the images required to piece together details of a crash scene in 45 minutes. Traditionally, the road is closed to traffic for several hours after a serious crash so that investigators can manually take all the required measurements and collect the necessary evidence which is then used to recreate the scene through a computer-generated drawing.
Allport says a real-life scene can be re-created through a series of images taken from the air in a much shorter timeline which are then pieced together, allowing for the road to be opened much more quickly.
Searches for missing people can continue during the night thanks to infrared heat detectors equipped on the RPAS unit.
Or when there’s a distress call on Kempenfelt Bay, the drone can be launched in seven minutes to quickly assess the situation to determine what responses, and equipment, is needed.
“It’s certainly readily deployable so you can see the distress of a person and react accordingly,” said Alllport, adding those efforts work on the frozen surface as well during winters, reducing the risk for officers.
It is also used in crime scenes.
Five members of the local police service are now certified through Transport Canada to operate the SkyRanger, which usually accompanies one of them in their cruiser during a regular shift. The hope is to continue training more officers.
“The more people we have available to us, the more it’s going to be used,” said Allport.
But the Barrie police department's single drone is coming to the end of its life, with the manufacturer soon to end its support of what’s become an older platform.
Newer models can also do a little more. Instead of carrying just a camera, the latest equipment can support several as well as other equipment such as spotlights and speakers.
“The efficiency and the ability to see such a great area, obviously we don’t have the ability of having our own helicopter. This provides us that ability,” he said. “We fly it within visual line of sight and do our flight survey, we’re certainly very safe when we fly.
“It’s a valuable tool,” Allport added. “If we can use it to save lives and help people, then it’s worth its weight in gold.”