Saskatchewan RCMP detachments will soon have the ability to take to the skies to fight crime and support investigations. It’s all part of the force’s plan to deploy aerial drones in all of its Saskatchewan sites.
An RCMP release reveals that officers have been using Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) as a means of capturing video and images since 2010. Now, the RPAS Expansion Project looks to see those services available in each of its provincial detachments by April 2024.
“The objective of this Expansion Project is to ensure members have the necessary tools available to them – allowing them to respond to calls quicker and more efficiently when warranted,” notes the RCMP release.
With drones, RCMP members have access to visual information that can enhance and speed up investigations, change the approach to unfolding critical incidents, and help to handle public safety concerns in a more modern and efficient way. The distinct advantage is to be able to cover wide areas in search and rescue missions.
“For example, Meadow Lake RCMP recently deployed an unmanned aircraft after receiving a report of a missing hiker. The hiker, who ended up being approximately 500 metres off the marked trail, was spotted by the RPAS pilot who identified the hiker’s GPS coordinates. This allowed officers on ATVs to easily locate the individual and bring them to safety – time is of the essence when dealing with harsh weather conditions and/or vulnerable missing people.”
The search for armed suspects is also enhanced while maximizing officer safety. At vehicle collisions, aerial views can provide additional information that might not be evident from the ground. RPAS units help collision reconstruction analysts gain a wider view to catch details over a debris field.
Remote aircraft currently used by RCMP members include Mavic (multi-rotor) units and Sky Fury (fixed wing with vertical takeoff capabilities) units.
RCMP note that the vehicles are used only in situations that warrant aerial scrutiny. Officers must maintain judicial authority or property owners’ consent for use, and the aircraft are not used for widespread surveillance under normal circumstances. There are no facial recognition capabilities attendant with the technology, and authorized pilots must document every unmanned flight.
North Battleford’s detachment recently participated in a 2-day pilot project with fixed-wing aircraft.
“The objective of this project is to provide situational awareness for on-the-ground officers responding to a call for service in a small-urban environment,” the release states. “The Battlefords RCMP will be generating statistics and reports regarding the effectiveness of the 2-day trial period – which could pave the way, if proven successful, for other detachment areas requiring the same level of air support.”
“We’re really excited to see this project take flight. By utilizing this innovative technology, we are able to provide crucial air support for our officers on the ground in real time. Expanding this to all of our detachments across Saskatchewan, will most certainly increase our ability to effectively respond to crimes in progress and support search and rescue operations much more efficiently,” said Inspector Devin Pugh, Officer in Charge of Saskatchewan RCMP’s Support Services Section.
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