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Madison police credits drones to recent success

(NBC15)
Published: Jan. 27, 2020 at 10:24 PM CST
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From novelty to the norm, Madison Police is using drones to fight crime like never before.

From conducting search operations to finding missing persons MPD said drones help officers reach new heights.

Some fly this unmanned aircraft system (UAS) for fun, but MPD uses it as a tool.

"Searching for lost and missing adults and children, evidence gathering,” MPD South District Captain Mike Hanson said.

He said flying drones is a game changer.

"It gives us a wide range of speed, over watch and the ability to use Forward Looking Infrared heat signature," he said.

It's a camera with wings and an extra set of eyes to keep people safe.

“So far the positive results for this Drone program are absolutely outstanding,” Captain Hanson said.

In mid-January, MPD launched the drone to help SWAT during the Super 8 search operation. Captain Hanson said they used thermal sensors to scope out the hotel room to get a clear sense of direction.

"In that case a building window to be able to peer in. Is anyone being held hostage? Are there weapons?” he said.

In November 2019, a driver tried to escape his arrest and ran into a swampy wooded area. Officers launched the drone and found the suspect stuck in waist-deep water.

"If we can do that with the drone and no one gets hurt and we have a successful outcome like we did, then it benefits everybody," Captain Hanson said.

He said as technology evolves, he wants the department to keep up. He said now there's research underway about the concept of a mini drone that officers can launch as soon as they leave a squad car.

"Instead of body worn cameras it's giving a view from a different angle," he said. "If they're going to a dangerous situation this can be forward looking and get out before the officer.”

Captain Hanson said using drones is still relatively new and he plans to explore the new ideas in baby steps. He explained they set a strict policy on how to use the drones to ensure they do it right.

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