LIHU‘E — Earlier this year, investigators at the National Transportation Safety Board used drone footage to document and analyze a helicopter crash that killed seven passengers in December. And now, the Kaua‘i Police Department is equipping its team to be able to do the same.
The department’s small Unmanned Aircraft System arm has been given the go-ahead to procure a software license for mapping software by the Kaua‘i County Council at its meeting on Mar. 25.
The software will allow the department to produce high-quality maps and images that can be used during natural disasters and for search-and-rescue operations.
The KPD has three sworn and certified Federal Aviation Administration remote pilots trained in procedures that follow local, state and federal laws, as well as the constitutional rights afforded by the Fourth Amendment, which protects Americans from unreasonable searches and seizures of property.
In 2018, KPD received authorization by the FAA that authorizes the department to use drones for disaster response and recovery, post-incident crime-scene preservation and documentation, response to hazardous-materials spills, and search-and-rescue missions. Additionally, the KPD will have to report all missions to the FAA.
The software allows the drones to take pictures of crime scenes or of other approved sites to create real-time maps in the field or in the office. This would be helpful in the aftermath of floods, hurricanes or other natural disasters. By evaluating maps before heading into a situation, the department can identify problems when infrastructure or environmental factors could obstruct on-the-ground response.
“I’m confident (with the use of drones) that we’ll be more effective (in the steps) we’re taking now for the safety and wellbeing of citizens and the police in the island,” county Councilmember Felicia Cowden said after speaking with KPD Capt. Elliott Ke.
A drone is both safer and more cost-effective, said KPD Chief Todd Raybuck.
“The use of the drones in policing has really allowed to us increase our ability to observe dangerous situations,” Raybuck said, adding that drones can obtain the same information that can be obtained from a safe location on the ground.
It’s more cost-effective, too, Raybuck said, noting that a helicopter or airplane rental bill can be $725 per hour of flight time.
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.