CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Officers in squad cars may not be the only thing showing up at police incidents in Coral Gables anymore. Instead, a drone could arrive first.
The department is using the city’s Fourth of July celebration at the Biltmore Hotel as a test run for its new drone program. Organizers expected the event to draw more than 40,000 spectators and police said they will use the drone to monitor crowds, traffic and any incidents that could occur.
After the Fourth, the two drones will be dispatched from strategic points throughout the city to specific incidents, meaning they won’t be patrolling the streets, police Chief Ed Hudak said.
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“We can basically put eyes and ears on anything in the city of Coral Gables within two to three minutes and give that information to officers on the street before they even get there,” he said.
Hudak said the drones will feature spotlights, infrared cameras and speakers to assist officers heading to the scene and potentially answer important questions.
“Do we have to put up a perimeter? Is the subject running this way?” Hudak said.
In an effort to allay privacy concerns, Hudak said the drones are solely meant to provide situational awareness and will fly above city streets until arriving to an incident.
“This will be call-specific,” he said. “911 calls, suspicious person calls, where we can launch the drone and then have the officers respond at the same time.”
Coral Gables Fire Rescue will also be able to utilize the drones to assess situations they respond to.
The pilot program will run for two months. Police will review data afterward and then make a decision as to whether they want to keep utilizing the technology.