Fairbanks Police Department drone operations take flight

By  | 

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) An unmanned aerial drone is helping Fairbanks Police officers do their job more accurately, safely and efficiently.

The main use of the drone is for accident mapping, they use a program called Pix4D to photograph an accident or crime scene in great detail and then create a large top down photo of the crime scene. Previously officers would use Google Maps and then draw in where parts of the crime scene were. Now, they are able to take an accurate photo of the crime scene shortly after it happens. (John Dougherty/KTVF)

“We are trying to do our job better, and I think having a drone helps us with that goal,” said Fairbanks Police officer Jason Pace. “If we can prevent a civilian from being harmed by putting a drone somewhere, if we can prevent an officer from being harmed, or we can even prevent the suspect from being harmed by putting a drone out and assessing the situation.”

FPD uses a DJI Inspire 1 to help with this goal. They are able to fly the drone over crime scenes, accidents and active situations to give them eyes in the sky.

The main use of the drone is for accident mapping, they use a program called Pix4D to photograph an accident or crime scene in great detail and then create a large top down photo of the crime scene. Previously officers would use Google Maps and then draw in where parts of the crime scene were. Now, they are able to take an accurate photo of the crime scene shortly after it happens.

They can also make a three-dimensional fly through of the scene to help better document the evidence.

“It’s one more thing to piece together the scene of an accident,” Pace said.

The police department also said that using the drone can help them reopen roads more quickly.

“We have tons of accidents that occur on the Richardson Highway every winter. One thing that having this drone can help us do is get out to those scenes, document that scene, and clear it quicker,” Pace said. “Without having to stop traffic for a significant amount of time.”

Another use of the drone is to help swat get a safer look at a suspect who is barricaded in a vehicle. They can get close to a suspect to assess the situation and see what type of weapons they may have without risking an officer’s life.

They also use the drone to track suspects who have fled on foot or to help with search and rescue.

While using the drone can make an officer’s job easier, police are also aware that the public may have concerns about their privacy and how it is being used.

“We’re not using the drone to go look into people houses,” Pace said. “We are using it for incidents that are occurring at the time, we don’t have a reason to look into your back yard, and we don’t want to see in your back yard. We are just doing our job trying to solve a problem that’s presented to us at a time.”

State law also requires the police to notify the public any time they fly a drone. They publish Nixle alerts any time they are using a drone unless it would endanger the mission.

Pace also said that they work with the FAA and local flight towers to make sure that they are flying safely and not putting anyone at risk.

Right now they only have one drone, but they are working to purchase more drones that trained officers can keep in their patrol vehicles as well as buy a zoom camera and a thermal camera for the drone so they can better locate suspects and lost people.

Copyright 2019 KTVF. All rights reserved.