A drone has been added to the Abbotsford Police Department’s tool belt, and it’s being touted as a potential life saver in car crashes and search and rescue operations.
The drone was first bought by the department early this spring, and currently only one officer, Const. Robert Hryhorczuk, is trained to pilot the gadget. However, he expects to train up to eight more pilots.
“We have two cameras on it. One is a 4K camera, so we can take still images or video. It’s extremely clear. The other camera is called an FLIR – forward-looking infrared –and that does heat signatures, so we can use that for search and rescue,” Hryhorczuk said.
‘“With the cameras, because the cameras are quite expensive, altogether it’s about $32,000. Part of that was making it a compliant machine with Transport Canada.”
Transport Canada unveiled new rules surrounding drones – where they can fly, how high they can fly and much more – though law enforcement does have some exceptions to certain rules.
Hryhorczuk said there has been a lot to study up on to stay in compliance. That includes a maximum altitude of about 90 metres, and it must be flown 5.6 kilometres away from any airport.
That covers much of Abbotsford, Hryhorczuk said, which means he regularly needs to contact the airport to put the drone to use, mostly for things like search and rescues and vehicle crashes.
“The tools in my tool belt have grown year by year as we try to understand how to better serve the community,” Police Chief Bob Rich told onlookers in Mill Lake Park at an event to show off the new gadget.
“This tool is exactly that. We are adding another tool to the tool belt for the Abbotsford Police Department.”
Hryhorczuk said the drone has already been taken out several times since he finished training on piloting, and he said it is a major help to analysts investigating crashes.
“Previous to having a drone, they would take a satellite image of an area, but of course this could be dated, whereas now they get a real-time photo of the actual collision scene with the vehicles still in it before they’re removed,” Hryhorczuk said.
“There’s already been some instances in Canada at the other police forces and in the U.K., probably in the United States as well, where they’ve had collision scenes that they’ve sent the drone up with the FLIR and been able to locate a victim not too far away with the video where they might not have seen otherwise and saved a life.”