After going through a bidding process, the Pueblo Police Department has purchased two drones that will be used in the field for a variety of purposes.
The drones are being assembled by the police department now and officers will begin training on using them beginning in the first week of April, according to Deputy Chief Chris Noeller.
Eight officers will train initially and the program may expand depending on need.
“The idea is to have a couple officers on each watch be certified to fly them so we can get them out when we need them,” Noeller said. “As the program expands we may train pilots in other units to use them, but we’re kind of limiting it right now.”
Police hope to have the drones operational in the field by the end of April, but Noeller said the timeline for when they will begin being used will depend on how training goes.
“The bigger one is an expensive drone with all the cameras and everything on it so we want to make sure our guys can fly it without destroying it before we put it in the field,” Noeller said.
The drones police purchased are a DJI Matrice 210 that cost about $20,000 including cameras and accessories, and a smaller drone called a DJI Mavic Air that cost about $6,000.
Their use could make investigations and situations safer for officers.
Police will use the drones for numerous purposes, including helping in locating missing people, apprehending suspects that run from police and scanning big buildings when there is a burglary alarm going off, among other functions.
The drones also can be used to help police locate homeless populations along Fountain Creek.
Quote Police would need a warrant to hover a drone over someone’s home or backyard.
The Pueblo Fire Department will have access to the drones as well and could use them for river rescues and during grassland fires.
The bigger, more expensive drone will fly outdoors and has thermal cameras, while the smaller drone will be used inside buildings.
As for potential privacy concerns, Noeller has 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 to The Pueblo Chieftain in February. “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.”