The Henry County Police Department (HCPD) in Georgia has implemented its new drone program, dubbed the Special Wide Angle Reconnaissance Mitigation (SWARM) Unit.
The HCPD says it obtained authorization and certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in October 2017.
The use of the technology allows officers to record and take still photos of accident scenes, as well as search for missing persons and runaways more efficiently and safely, the agency says.
Captain and commanding officer of the SWARM Unit, Vance Rosen, explains the purpose of the new drone unit:
“We want to utilize the most cost-effective assets at our disposal in order to provide the best service that we can to the county. We have a need for aviation-style units, and helicopter units are cost-prohibitive. Implementing this drone unit is a way for us to get eyes in the air to scan greater areas to find what we are looking for.”
As reported in August 2016, using Federal Seized Assets and Forfeiture funds, the HCPD purchased two drones, including a DJI Phantom 3, which is equipped with an HD camera, and a Maxsur Seeker, which has the capacity to detect body heat with a thermal camera, for approximately $15,000 total.
“The time it takes to get helicopter air coverage through mutual aid is often prohibitive,” continues Rosen. “Weather is always a factor, but barring bad weather and given a qualified pilot, we can have a drone or drones up in minutes.”
Allen Harmon, chief pilot and training officer, will be instructing approximately 20 officers, who will undergo classroom, online and on-site training consisting of flight safety and working in the field.