The Pueblo Police Department is getting close to launching two drones that they plan to use to help in locating missing people, apprehend suspects and other police activities.
City Manager Sam Azad said the goal is to have the drones in place and operating in April.
Police Deputy Chief Chris Noeller said the department is seeking bids for two drones — one that is capable of outdoor flight and has thermal cameras, and another that can be used inside buildings.
Once the department gets the bids back, they will go over them and figure out which meet their requirements.
The police department already has two officers certified to fly drones, and they will be the only individuals who will operate them initially. Those officers will be on-call to respond whenever a situation arises that requires the assistance of one of the drones
Down the road, the department would like to get more officers certified to fly them, Noeller said.
Drones will be used by the police department in numerous ways and even will be shared with the Pueblo Fire Department in certain situations, according to Noeller.
Their use could make investigations and situations safer for officers.
The drones can be used to track a suspect that runs from police or to scan big buildings when there is a burglary alarm going off.
They can also be used to search for missing persons.
“A drone can cover a lot more ground a lot quicker than a human can. And with the addition of the thermal camera, we can pick up heat signatures and identify someone if they fell in a gully or something like that,” Noeller said.
The drones also can be used to help police locate homeless populations along Fountain Creek.
“There was a flood two summers ago where we had to send officers up and down the (creek) looking for camps,” Noeller said. “We could fly the drone up and down there, find where people are and send officers directly to those locations instead of have them walk the river.”
The fire department would be able to use the drones for river rescues and during grassland fires.
“There’s a number of different uses for them besides helping in apprehending a criminal,” Noeller said.
As for potential privacy concerns, Noeller said police would need a warrant to hover a drone over someone’s home or backyard.
“Protecting the rights of our citizens is important to us,” Noeller said. “One area that gets kind of muddy is if we get a suspect running through backyards fleeing. We would track them, but we’re not going to be looking for someone pulling their weeds in their backyard; we’re tracking the bad guy.”