Pensacola police now using drones to fight crime

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PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — The Pensacola Police Department is now using drones to search for suspects, help find those reported missing and to rescue people who need help in the water.

There are four officers certified to fly the drones and those officers will be training others within the department so they can get better at fighting crime from the sky.

Two of the drones cost about $500 to $600 each and they are used indoors while the two outdoor drones cost about $8,000.

“It gives us a lot of capabilities,” Lt. Steve Bauer said. “Number one, the officer safety factor. Searching for someone in a backyard or searching for someone in a building..it’s nice to put a mechanical device up front instead of a body up front.”

They can use them to rescue someone in the water. The drone will release a floatation device that will inflate automatically when it hits the water.

Local scientists including Daniel Duran at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition built the drones and are helping the department with any problems they may have.

“We’ve got somebody local here that if we see a problem with it they can adapt it for our needs,” Lt. Bauer said.

On the ground, officers can see everything live from the HD camera and the drones can go up to a half-mile away. There are many factors that determine how long the battery will last. At night, it has thermal imaging making it easy to see someone in the dark.

Lt. Bauer said they’re learning lessons now and working to find out what the drones can and cannot be used for.

“I believe the more we use it obviously the more things we’re going to find out..capabilities and maybe limitations on it,” he said.

The police department plans to use the drones too when they work in mutual aid with the sheriff’s office and NAS Pensacola.

They will also record video to be given to the state attorney’s office that can be used as evidence during criminal trials.

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