Gord Steeves to launch police drones if elected Winnipeg mayor

Mayoral candidate Gord Steeves says he wants to get two aerial drones to complement the Winnipeg Police Service's helicopter, Air-1, in fighting crime.

Unmanned aerial vehicles would support Winnipeg police helicopter, he says

Gord Steeves says if he's elected mayor in the Oct. 22 civic election, he would introduce aerial drones that would complement Air-1, the Winnipeg Police Service's helicopter. (CBC)

Mayoral candidate Gord Steeves says he wants to get two aerial drones to complement the Winnipeg Police Service's helicopter, Air-1, in fighting crime.

The former city councillor says he helped bring a police helicopter to Winnipeg, and now he wants to add more airborne assistance in the form of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Steeves said the UAVs, which are typically quad-propeller helicopter devices, would be cost-effective and would improve public safety.

"These units would only be used in circumstances where the helicopter was not available," he told reporters outside city hall on Wednesday afternoon.

"We are going to start off with one and we are going to make sure that it works properly, and then we are going to add one to make a total of two."

Steeves said Air-1 was dispatched to 3,445 incidents and attended 2,688 incidents in 2012.

That same year, the helicopter was not in the air for 25 days due to weather, for 61 days because of unscheduled maintenance, and for 28 days because of staffing shortages, he said.

Steeves said if elected, he would work with the Winnipeg Police Service and the Winnipeg Police on a "clear operations process and budget" to make one UAV operational at all times.

"I'm not yet an expert in everything about these units, but I assume there's an element of repair and there's an element of downtime where we'd have to make sure that the other unit is being repaired for those times," he said.

According to Steeves, current UAVs can be in the air for up to several hours at a time, they can fly in temperatures as cold as –25 C, and they can be operated from up to 25 kilometres away.

A police officer trained with a special flight operations certificate would operate the UAV by remote control, he said.

Steeves said RCMP in Nova Scotia purchased UAVs for about $33,000 each and use the devices to photograph and illuminate crime scenes, carry out infrared searches, track suspect vehicles and search for missing people.

UAVs are also used by RCMP in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador and the Northwest Territories, he said.

RCMP in Manitoba are in the process of acquiring unmanned aerial devices to be used in search and rescue missions, traffic accidents and critical incident investigations.


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