Northeast OPP use drones to survey crashes, search for missing people

Northeastern Ontario Provincial Police are now using drones to survey car crashes, crime scenes, and even search for missing people.

Provincial police have a new vehicle at their disposal — but there's no one driving it.

An Ontario Provincial Police officer is pictured operating a drone on a sunny day.
OPP, RCMP, and paramedics in Renfrew are travelling to Orillia in April for a week of trials with Transport Canada to test flying beyond operators' visual line-of-sight. (OPP)
Provincial police in the northeast have a new vehicle at their disposal. They have begun using drones to survey crash sites, and they say it's saving them time and money.

Northeastern Ontario Provincial Police are now using drones to survey car crashes, crime scenes, and even search for missing people.

Police say drones provide more detail, while saving time and money.

OPP Inspector Mark Andrews said the remote controlled machine flies around taking photos.

"It gives you a 3D image of what this crash scene looks like with all the vehicles still in place," he said.

"We can use those images to do the measurements we would normally do on the ground."
Mark Andrews is an inspector with Ontario Provincial Police. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC)

The OPP have seven drones and want more. Each one comes with a price tag of $60,000 — but Andrews said they'll save millions.

"The longer the highway is closed [after a crash], the longer it costs the taxpayer," he noted.

"We can reduce the processing of a crash scene from an hour and a half to 15 minutes. You fly the scene and you can have all of your photography work done from above. That gives you the ability to see distance, locations. We can target down in and look at and examine skidmarks."

Search for missing people

OPP can also use drones to check a scene before sending emergency responders in. They did this in Kenora with a dangerous goods crash to make sure it was okay before first responders were sent in.

Northeastern OPP used the drone for the first time in the region to document a crash just a few weeks ago, when there was a fatal car accident near Sault Ste Marie.

They've also used it once for a missing person search.

The drone for the northeast has been here for about a year. It's based in South Porcupine. There is also one in Barrie which was the one used in the Sault Ste. Marie crash

Marc Moffat, who is with the Unmanned Aerial System Centre of Excellence, said even if police forces don't have drones, they want [to] "have them in the back of the vehicle, and be able to deploy them fairly quickly and gain that different perspective."

"I suspect we'll see more and more as they're able to figure out the legislation aspect," Moffat said.

Transport Canada is currently reviewing its regulations of drones.

"It's tough right now for Transport Canada to enforce those rules and regulations," he said.

Moffat added police usually don't use drones for surveillance.