Drone program proving successful for CPD

Published 1:51 pm Wednesday, August 9, 2017

By EMILY REED / Special to the Advertiser

CLANTON – With a new perspective to things such as crime scenes, motor vehicle crashes, and traffic issues, the Clanton Police Department’s new drone is proving to be a beneficial tool.

“We are still discovering all of the uses for the drone,” said Clanton Police Chief Keith Maddox. “We are able to use it as an extra pair of eyes, while protecting our officers and those around us. We have found that it has been very helpful so far.”

The department has had the DJI Inspire 2 drone for about three months, after purchasing the camera-equipped drone and accessories for roughly $5,000.

So far, the department has used the drone during traffic accidents, crimes scenes, studying traffic patterns, and recently undercover during drug purchases.

“We were able to do an aerial where no one realized we were watching them during the drug buys, and it was able to really help us out,” Maddox said. “It is also very helpful during a traffic accident because it allows us to view the scene from a different perspective. We are able to go back and look at things in a new way.”

The department anticipated using the drone to gauge school traffic on Wednesday for the beginning of school, but poor weather conditions prevented the department from using it.

“We might still take it out and use it this week to see about school traffic,” Maddox said. “In most cases it provides an angle we wouldn’t normally have, and gives us a true 360 view of everything.”

Maddox said there are limits to the drone including places the drone is not legally able to fly over including private residences, and inclement weather can still be a challenge.

“We are not able to just fly over someone’s backyard and observe what is going on with the drone,” Maddox said. “We also have found that weather can be a big challenge because we do not have the capabilities to use the drone during various types of weather. There are drones that have the capability to be used during different weather conditions, but this particular drone is not one of those.”

Maddox said with the new wave of technology being utilized by various police departments across the United States, drones are also becoming a helpful tool in the courtroom as well.

“We are able to use drone footage in a court setting, as long as the footage was taken in a legal place,” Maddox said. “You are going to start seeing more and more departments using them.”

Prior to the influx of drones and drone footage, Maddox said for things such as a traffic accident, the department would have to use a ladder truck for an aerial view of something.

“You are talking about taking out a $1 million dollar piece of equipment each time you need an aerial view of something,” Maddox said. “It is a lot more practical to use the drone.”

Maddox said the public has been receptive to the drone, and more and more individuals are using them for personal reasons.

“It is still a merging technology, but most people appreciate it,” Maddox said. “So many people have drones now they use themselves, and it is becoming something that is more common.”