Idaho police launch new drone program

Idaho police launch new drone program

The Idaho State Police launched a new drone program to help in their investigations.

“The drones will primarily be used for documenting crime scenes and crash scenes,” Capt. John Ganske, Idaho State Police, said.

ISP has been developing the drone program, known as the “Small Unmanned Aerial System,” for a year. Each of ISP’s six districts is equipped with a DJI Phantom 4 Quadricopter. Two troopers in each district, 13 troopers total, are now licensed by the FAA to operate the drones.

“It started out as a hobby and then it turned into something that could be work related and something that’s beneficial to law enforcement and public safety,” Ganske said.

The drones are cheaper and safer than sending an officer up in a helicopter, each one costing ISP $1,500.

“In one instance, it was used to locate a subject who walked away from a veteran’s home, so we were able to search the foothills fairly quick and easily without sending people to search,” Ganske said.

Other times, the drones will be used to get a bird’s eye view of a scene, in hazardous materials situations, and they’ll be deployed to support other law enforcement agencies.

“As we continue to learn about the drones and their capabilities, we see many uses for them in law enforcement,” Ganske said.

As with any new technology, there comes a new set of rules. That includes obtaining search warrants at time before sending a drone into the air.

“Really our goal is to just get it accepted with the public and put them at ease to the fact that we’re going to be using them for positive things and we’re very conscious of the expectation of privacy issues that exist out there,” Ganske said.

Right now, Idaho State Police say they’re using drones about three times per month. But as this program evolves, they could be deploying drones more frequently.