NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- North Little Rock police have added a new tool to their arsenal to combat crime.
Drones are used for just about everything these days: from hunting, to package delivery, to disaster relief. No one can forget the powerful images of Houston after Harvey, or Key West after Irma. Now, they have another purpose, law enforcement. And the NLRPD is ready to take the skies.
A handful of North Little Rock Police officers spent Thursday afternoon at Burns Park getting a feel for their new drones.
"This is the view from 246 feet altitude,” said one officer as he showed THV11 the iPhone screen connected to the drone’s remote.
He was hovering the craft over a building nearly a mile away.
Considering North Little Rock just voted on a highly debated tax increase, THV11 asked Lt. Patrick Thessing where the department got the money for the three drones.
"These were all from drug seized money. This is not costing the tax payers a dime,” he answered.
What will the drones, or UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) be used for?
"We want these to be useful. We want them to come in handy. We want them to help keep us safe, keep citizens safe, that's why we are here,” the officer explained, giving some examples.
Here’s a good one: say there’s a bad guy running from police and now is hiding in a nook at the back of the park. From their vantage point out in the parking lot, police can't tell what he’s up to. Now, rather than sending in officers blind, they can send in a drone. That drone can determine whether or not he’s got hostages, weapons, or even explosives. The police department can develop their tactics from there.
Lt. Thessing provided another example: "We had a situation that happened out at Cooks Landing: an individual in a car, who may have had a hostage, may have had a weapon, we didn't know. We just got a call. That would have been a perfect instance to fly a UAV out there to be able to see in to the car without having to expose an officer to that unnecessary danger."
The few officers that will fly the drones had to go through the same FAA training that your average person would.
"We were actually required to get a commercial drone license with FAA, or a commercial UAV pilot's license. We had to go through the training, we had to take a test, that was a little bit difficult by the way, so yea, we are all certified,” he said.
A lot of people have had questions about privacy. Lt. Thessing said the public has nothing to worry about.
"These are not for general surveillance. These are very mission specific. We are not going to just go up and fly for no reason; look in people's back yards. That's way too man power intensive, and that's not our mission," he said.