Seaside Park police will add a drone to the department at no cost, officials said, with the quadcopter expected to play several roles in town once it arrives.
Chief James Boag said the department has had an interest in acquiring a drone for some time, and recently began looking into grant programs to defray the cost. Rather quickly, Detective AJ Mantz was able to secure a drone from the National Public Safety Drone Donation Program after expressing the unique need for a UAS – an unmanned aerial system, the government’s current acronym for drones – and brought it before the borough council.
The drone, an Autel Robotics Evo II model, will be provided to the police department free of charge through the program, which is managed by Advance Service LLC, a drone services provider. Advance Service maintains the program by setting aside 5 percent of its earnings for grants, and also offers various technologies and premium services, none of which the borough is obligated to purchase in the future. Part of the grant funds the coursework Mantz will receive to earn a drone pilot’s license from the FAA.
Officials have already begun envisioning how to use the new tool, which comes with 40 minutes of flight endurance, an 8K camera and 12 sensors for navigation and obstacle avoidance.
“We do a lot with the boats in trouble out in the bay,” said Boag, often leading to a discussion as to whether launching a fire department rescue boat is necessary. “We could actually send this out, and it has a speaker on it. Right now we can’t hear what they’re saying – we can ask them if they’re okay, and they can gives us the thumbs up or thumbs down.”
Boag also said the drone could be especially useful in the response to natural disasters.
“We already do pre-storm video of the bayfront and beachfront,” he said. “In the past we were using people’s personal drones.”
The technology could lead to securing more storm-related funding in the future since damages and impacts can be proven. It can also potentially save residents’ money on flood insurance policies by raising the borough’s preparedness score within FEMA’s Community Rating System.
The drone comes with numerous features and accessories, leaving the borough unlikely to have the need to purchase any additional services.
“We’re not looking to purchase anything else to put on the drone, it has everything we needs,” Boag said.
The council voted unanimously to accept the drone donation.