The Clovis Police Department hosted 20 law enforcement agencies from across Central and Northern California for a public safety drone demonstration on Friday, June 4.
Companies like Axon, Brinc and Skydio presented the latest drone technology by demonstrating their respective drones for attendees.
Drone technology has increased over the years. Agencies use them to track suspects during chases, keep officers safe at a distance, collect evidence, perform surveillance and conduct search and rescue missions.
“We’re using these drones on a daily basis,” said Clovis Police Department PIO Lt. Jim Munro. “It’s game-changing technology for us and has been for several years. At this point, we couldn’t really live without them.”
According to Munro, Clovis PD started using drone technology several years ago and currently has 13 pilots and 22 drones used for law enforcement situations.
Investing in drones for a department is a pricey endeavor. The least expensive drones cost around $500 to the most expensive drones that the department owns which cost approximately $30,000.
Munro said that the department purchased its pilots, the DJI Mini drone, whose base models come with a price tag of $500.
The price ranges for the drones vary due to the size and capabilities of the units. In addition, agencies use a variety of drones for different tasks and situations.
Smaller drones are good with searches and flying indoors, while larger drones can canvas large areas outdoors.
In some instances, these drones can cost upwards of $100,000.
Axon demonstrated its tethered stationary drone, costing $25,000. It is decked out with a 1080p camera that includes 4x digital zoom and thermal vision. Unplugged, it can fly up to 150 feet for 24 hours and plugged into an outlet, has lasted as long as 40 days.
By comparison, the $15,000 Skydio X2E is ideal for surveillance and reconnaissance. It is equipped with six 4K cameras, thermal vision, full 360-degree view and GPS capabilities.
“Being able to surveil a large area, if you have somebody that’s fleeing or potentially dangerous suspect, it can be super helpful,” said Skydio representative Cole Martin.
Munro said Clovis PD is always looking to expand the department’s drone program. He said the department is reactive right now, where if there is a call, a drone is taken to the scene but they would like to become proactive with the drones eventually.
“In the future, we want to be proactive to where, as soon as that call is dispatched, we can dispatch a drone off the top of a roof,” Munro said. “Then, someone can control it and get instant air support over the top, and that’ll save resources. It will be safer.”
Munro said that Clovis PD sees what other police departments are doing with drones and would like to replicate them. He also mentioned that the Chula Vista Police Department is an example of what could be done proactively with drones.
The Chula Vista PD dispatches drones as first responders to scenes when calls come in.
The purpose of Friday’s event was not only to allow the agencies to learn about the latest technology but also to congregate and network with other local agencies.
“The biggest thing for today is just making those contacts, not only with the vendors but [with] all these local agencies,” Munro said. “We’re all getting to know each other. Getting to meet each other…They’re now 20 resources for us.”