Colorado Springs

Fountain PD to use drones to fight crime

Agency is the first in the region to utilize UAS

What began as a popular toy for hobbyists is becoming more and more common among law enforcement, and this week Fountain Police unveiled a pair of drones that it hopes will take their service to new heights.

It is the first agency in the region to use drones.

The architect of the program is officer Eric Moore, whose experience as a UAS hobbyist provided the foundation. 

"I actually decided to purchase a Mavik myself for Christmas," he recalled.

The Mavik is among the latest UAS models released by DJI, with an emphasis on portability.

Moore brought it work back in January, where it was quickly noticed by his superiors.

"They saw me fly it.  They said that's so cool.  You need to build a program based off of this," he said.

Moore later donated his drone to the city while also creating the policy for using it.

Without any neighboring agency's policy to assist him, Moore was forced to come up with the plan from scratch, reaching out only to a handful of out-of-state agencies for guidance. 

Incorporating new technology into its arsenal is not a new thing for Fountain PD.

The agency was also the first in the region to use body cameras several years ago.

Deputy Chief Tommy Coates said the department is always looking for ways to better serve and protect its citizens.

"Chief Heberer is a very strong advocate of thinking outside the box, to be creative, and to make sure we are testing any opportunities to enhance our job as a police department," said Coates.

The department displayed two drones at its unveiling on Tuesday afternoon.

A smaller one, a DJI Spark, is intended for tight spaces.

The larger Mavik is intended to help document the scene of a crime or a crash, assist search and rescue crews, or even tracking a fugitive involved in a pursuit.

Moore is one of two pilots certified under the FAA's Part 107 program, and despite being a law enforcement officer, he is still subject to the same restrictions as other Part 107 pilots, including not flying over people, not flying after dark, and always maintaining a line of sight with the aircraft.

In addition, he is required to get clearance to fly in many areas of Fountain, due to the city's proximity to both the Colorado Springs airport as well as the airfield at Fort Carson, which have several miles of restricted airspace around them.

"I have to contact Butts Army Airfield or Colorado Springs Regional Airport, request permission from their flight towers to say 'Hey, I know you guys have restricted airspace in this area.  We're requesting an emergency deployment for these different purposes.  These are our longitude latitude coordinates.  Are we cleared to fly at this altitude for approximately this amount of time?'"

A number of other states have banned the use of drones by law enforcement, due to concerns about spying on citizens.

Colorado has no such ban.

Moore says their drones will only be used to respond to incidents and investigations, not create them.

Because Moore donated his UAS, the department has only had to spend about a thousand dollars on other equipment to get the program off the ground.

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