Use of drones on rise for Las Vegas police, rescue agencies

After the Oct. 1 shooting, Metropolitan Police Department officer David Martel helped map the scene at the Las Vegas Village, where 58 people were fatally shot and more than 500 were injured.

Unlike other investigators, he wasn’t surveying from the ground but the air. Martel was using one of Metro’s five drones from Chinese manufacturing company Yuneec International, a popular drone maker.

“It really saves money when it comes to the helicopters,” Martel said. “With the helicopter it’s about $400-$1,000 an hour for them to pick up a (crime scene investigator) and take aerial pictures of the scene. Now it’s maybe 20 bucks a week for us.”

Metro is one of several emergency services agencies using drones in Southern Nevada for things like crime-scene reconstruction and search and rescue. Martel is the agency’s small UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) program manager.

Drones provide better aerial photos than helicopters, Martel said, because it can hover much closer to the scene and provide more detail. The department used a drone for collision reconstruction after a fatal crash at East Flamingo Road and South Eastern Avenue on Dec. 13.

It took about three years for the department to acquire the drones and put them into service in October, Martel said. Since the Federal Aviation Administration updated regulations governing drones and streamlined the certification process in August 2016, the use of unmanned aircraft has expanded exponentially. Prior to the change, the FAA required a pilot’s license. To get around that, commercial drone operators had to apply for a time-consuming and costly waiver. Pilots now are required to pass an aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-licensed center.

The Nevada Highway Patrol was the first law enforcement agency in the state to fly drones after receiving approval from the FAA in October 2016. The drones were obtained in order to map accident scenes with photo and video, improving safety for first responders and allowing for faster road reopenings, the agency told the Review-Journal.

There are over 17,000 law enforcement agencies in the U.S., Martel said, and fewer than 4,000 use drones.

“It’s coming to the point where pretty much every agency will probably have one or look into getting one,” he said.

Red Rock Search and Rescue has been using drones for about a year, according to one of the group’s founding members, Robert Ferraro. Ferraro also works with the Yuma County Sheriff’s Office in Arizona. Using a drone to sweep the area, Ferraro aided the rescue of a woman who got lost near Mittry Lake, north of Yuma, last year. A helicopter was then sent out to retrieve the woman.

“What was cool about that mission wasn’t that she was hard to find. She wasn’t,” Ferraro said. “Time is critical in those situations. The tools these drones (have) made it a super efficient search.”

It took less than 30 minutes to locate her with the drone and retrieve her, he said.

The Clark County Fire Department does not have a drone but plans on acquiring one, said county spokesman Dan Kulin.

“The drone could be used to assist with a variety of department operations, including fire investigations and planning for special events,” Kulin wrote in an email.

During his opening keynote at the InterDrone conference at the Rio in September, Michael Huerta, administrator of the FAA, ticked off the ways unmanned aerial systems played a part in helping the Houston area recover after Tropical Storm Harvey.

“A railroad company used drones to survey damage to a rail line that cuts through Houston. Oil and energy companies flew drones to spot damage to their flooded infrastructure,” Huerta said. “Unmanned aircraft helped a fire department and county emergency management officials check for damage to roads, bridges, underpasses and water treatment plants that could require immediate repair.”

Some public pushback over drone use by government entities centers around the fear of invasion of privacy.

“We take everybody’s privacy very seriously,” Martel said. “We’re not using these to invade privacy or use them for surveillance purposes unless we have a warrant.”

Contact Madelyn Reese at mreese@viewnews.com or 702-383-0497. Follow @MadelynGReese on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Local
Camp Broadway teaches kids how to sing and dance
The Smith Center's seventh annual Camp Broadway musical theater program gives 150 kids ages 6-17 an opportunity to learn musical theater skills from industry professionals over a five-day period. Marcus Villagran/ Las Vegas Review-Journal @brokejournalist
Restoring classic Corvettes to perfection
Members of the National Corvette Restorers Society Convention talk about what it takes to earn the NCRS Top Flight Award for a restored Corvette at South Point in Las Vegas on Tuesday July 17, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Watch Ruthless! at Las Vegas Little Theatre
The musical Ruthless! will be playing at Las Vegas Little Theatre from July 13-29. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Cadaver art and sword swallowing at The Dark Arts Market
Curator Erin Emrie talks about her inspiration for The Dark Arts Market at Cornish Pasty Co. in Las Vegas Tuesday, July 10, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
'NO H8' Campaign comes to Las Vegas
Hundreds of locals participate in the NO H8 campaign founded by Adam Bouska and Jeff Parshley as a response to Proposition 8, a California ban on same-sex marriage. The campaign has since evolved to represent equal treatment for all. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
What to expect at Station Casinos' Fourth of July celebration
Station Casinos' is hosting its annual 4th of July celebration with Fireworks by Grucci. Fireworks scheduled to go off on Wednesday, July 4 around 9 p.m. at Green Valley Ranch Resort, Red Rock Resort, Fiesta Rancho and Texas Station. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Star Wars and Golden Knights mashup at downtown art shop
Star Wars and Vegas Golden Knights fans attend the Boba Fett Golden Knight Paint Class at The Bubblegum Gallery in Las Vegas, Friday, June 29, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Tourists and locals enjoy Independence Day fireworks at Caesars Palace
Hundreds of tourists and locals gaze at the Independence Day fireworks show at Caesars Palace on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Clark County recount votes in commission’s District E primary
Clark County staff begin the recount requested by candidate Marco Hernandez in the democratic primary for the County Commission's District E seat on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Long-running local hip hop producer wants Vegas rappers to shine
Las Vegas Hip Hop producer and co-owner of Digital Insight Recording Studios Tiger Stylz reflects on 30 years of music production in the city. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
"Pawn Stars" fans visit Richard Harrison's memorial at Gold & Silver Pawn
"Pawn Stars" fans from around the world visit the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas following the passing of Richard "Old Man" Harrison on Monday, June 25, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Construction for new 51s ballpark underway
New home of the Las Vegas 51s is planned to be finished by March 2019 in Summerlin according to team president Don Logan. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Underground home was built as Cold War-era hideaway
The underground house at 3970 Spencer Street is one of the valley’s most unusual homes built 26 feet underground in 1978 by Girard “Jerry” B. Henderson, who, planned to survive the end of the world there.
Lip Smacking Foodie Tours takes you where the locals go
Donald Contursi talks about Lip Smacking Foodie Tours, which offers walking tours of restaurants on and off Las Vegas Boulevard with food samples and tidbits of history about the places they visit.
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like