By Sarah Seeley
Jan. 29, 2014
It’s called a UAV. An unmanned aerial vehicle. A drone. And the RCMP now have one to patrol the skies of P.E.I.
It’s intended to help police get a better view of car crashes.
The small helicopter has six rotor blades and weighs about four pounds. A camera mounted on the front takes aerial pictures and sends the image to a display monitor on the ground.
They were first used with the RCMP in 2010 in Saskatchewan. The Island got one from the Saskatchewan division because they had a surplus. It cost about $18,000.
Cpl. Doug Green of the Saskatchewan RCMP F division was among the first to test the drones. He tested eight different models, including the Draganfly, the model used by the RCMP.
They are used primarily for collision reconstruction. They take photos of crash sites to give the RCMP a better picture of the accident, said Green. That’s not all.
“We thought we could use them for search and rescue.”
The mini-helicopters were used only once for a search-and-rescue mission. A man involved in a car crash wandered away with a head injury in Saskatchewan and the RCMP found him using the drone.
They are also used for forensic reconstruction at murder crime scenes and to watch over SWAT teams in dangerous situations, said Green.
“You can cover a large area and get a high definition photo.”
When the RCMP purchased the drones from Draganfly Innovations, the company provided them with two weeks of training. Then, they took another basic flight program from a local flight school.
“We went above and beyond and took flight school,” said Green.
Although the drones can be difficult to manoeuvre, he hasn’t had problems, Green said.
“We have been flying for three years and not had any incidents.”
The UAVs have some disadvantages. They can’t fly above 151 metres or out of the view of the operator. An officer can only fly the vehicle within five nautical miles of an airport and they must notify Nav Canada before they use them because they are law enforcement vehicles.
The drones are also sensitive to weather conditions. They can’t fly in wind over 30 km/h or in temperatures colder than -30 degrees. It is difficult to fly a plane in cold weather, Green said.
“When you’re working in the cold, you don’t want thick gloves on.”
The drones can’t operate in rain because the water damages the electric wires. They also have a limited battery life.
Kevin Lauchier, the Industrial Sales and Training manager of Draganfly Innovations, said his company is trying to extend the battery life to more than 20 minutes and they are experimenting with different kinds of cameras.
“We’re always looking for new cameras.”
The drones were first used as aircraft for hobbyists and they are flown to take pictures of nature. Farmers also use the drones equipped with a multispectral camera to monitor crops. Draganfly always looking for new uses for their product, Lauchier said.
“It’s been designed as an aerial platform for taking pictures. It was designed by our people and we manufacture it here in Saskatoon.”