Steeves endorses use of UAVs for police work
Unmanned aerial vehicles offer cost-effective option and improve public safety
Mayoral candidate Gord Steeves today said he will enact a plan for the Winnipeg Police Service to use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to assist with current flight operations.
“This is a cost-effective way to augment the services provided by the Winnipeg Police Service helicopter,” Steeves said. “By using UAVs, we can improve safety for everyone.”
At approximately $33,000 per unit, UAVs are being used by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Nova Scotia to investigate crimes in progress, infrared searches, tracking and surveillance of suspect vehicles, lost person searches, photography at crime scenes, illuminating crime scenes, or to allow for aerial surveillance of fires and grow ops. The RCMP say they are also using UAVs in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador as well as the Northwest Territories.
The WPS helicopter was dispatched to 3,445 incidents and actually attended 2,688 incidents in 2012. Aerial support for the Winnipeg Police Service’s work helps make Winnipeg a safer place and reduces crime.
Steeves said he would work with the Winnipeg Police Service and the Winnipeg Police Board to set out a clear operations process and budget which enables for one UAV would be operational at all times. The WPS helicopter would remain the primary option, and the UAVs will provide support when the helicopter is not available.
The UAVs typically used are quad-propeller helicopters and are regulated by Transport Canada. A trained police officer with a special flight operations certificate may operate the UAV by remote control. Technology allows the UAV to be in the air for an hour or several hours. They can be operated from 25 kilometres away. UAVs can fly in weather as cold as -25 C.
• The flight operations unit of the WPS is budgeted to use 1,000 hours, and employs a chief pilot, two line pilots and four tactical flight officers.
• Currently, the WPS helicopter costs $500 per hour to operate.
• The helicopter can only fly for 2.5 hours per day. In 2012, the helicopter was not in the air for 25 days because of weather, 61 days because of unscheduled maintenance, and 28 days because of staffing shortages.
• To add an additional helicopter will cost $4 million in capital costs. The provincial government pays for $1.3 million and $1.5 million of the operations of the existing helicopter. Similar additional provincial funding would be required to put a second WPS helicopter into service.
• Unmanned Aerial Vehicles used by the RCMP in Nova Scotia cost approximately $33,000 per unit and its operations are subject similar Transport Canada safety regulations as the helicopter.
• UAV operators require Transport Canada training and certification.