Dec. 2—A Tahlequah Police Department officer is getting ready to teach a class so the department can use drones for assistance on calls.
Police Chief Nate King said two drones that will be employed for day-to-day operations have been delivered.
“Officer Cory Keele has been using the drones on [vehicle crashes] mostly to capture the scene when it happens,” said King. “Myself, I think it’s a better depiction than us hand-drawing a cartoon of a [crash].”
Keele has been a certified pilot for TPD since late summer, and King said several other officers expressed interest in the program.
“He’s a licensed certified pilot, and we’re thankful to all the fishermen and its organizers from the Back the Blue Fishing Tournament for purchasing the drones,” said King.
TPD obtained a Certificate of Waiver of Authorization through the Federal Aviation Administration, which allows staff to train and self-certify their pilots.
Keele is working on the curricular tests and flight school officers will have to complete sometime after the holidays.
“We will start holding our training, testing and continual training,” said King.
One of the drones is equipped with a camera that has infrared capabilities and a loudspeaker officers can talk through when assisting in searches. The other drone is smaller, and King said it has a cage-like feature to protect it.
“We can fly indoors, and if it bumps into a wall, you’re not going to damage the propellers, and it’ll still be flyable. We can use that for building searches and anything that’s indoors,” said King.
The loudspeaker can also give officers an advantage when it comes to negotiations during a standoff.
“You can either do live messaging or a recorded message on it,” he said.
Each drone that weighs more than .55 pounds is to have a current registration mark, and the pilot must carry proof of registration through the FAA.
King said no taxpayer money was used to purchase the two drones, which cost a little over $10,000.
Every officer will fly under Keele’s license during training, and the COA covers TPD for several missions.