RCMP in P.E.I. now using drones in efforts to keep Islanders safe

Published on June 14, 2017

Cpl. Al Vincent, left, Prince District RCMP, and Const. Conor Hickey, Kings District RCMP, conduct a demonstration Wednesday at Strathgartney Provincial Park for the media on the new drones the police force has purchased. Officers from across P.E.I. are now trained in the use of the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

©Submitted photo

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - RCMP in P.E.I. has a new tool when it comes to enforcement and search and rescue efforts.

All three detachments in the province have been equipped unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

The officers gave the media a peek at the new devices on Wednesday in Strathgartney Provincial Park.

Staff Sgt. Kevin Baillie said officers across the province have been trained.

“An RCMP officer who does the training came from British Columbia and we trained one of our officers from each of the three districts . . .    to kind of cover the Island,’’ Baillie said, referring to Montague, Maypoint and Bedeque. Personnel at headquarters also received training.

“Since then, we’ve acquired four UAVs, and they’re all commercial off-the-shelf stuff that you or I could go to Best Buy and buy.’’

They also purchased infrared attachments, which will come in handy in cases that involve, for example, a missing person or dangerous offender who just ran into the woods and might be armed.

“One of the big things for us is they can replace a helicopter. (If) we want to get some aerial shots, it’s much more efficient doing it with a drone than getting a helicopter over here.’’

Officers in P.E.I. have trained with the emergency response team, conducting exercises such as search and rescue.

Like any tool in a police officer’s arsenal, whether it’s a baton or pepper spray, we still have to use it reasonably and justify out actions.

Staff Sgt. Kevin Baillie

And, drones have already been used in actual police activity in the province.

They’ve been used to take aerial shots of roadway marks following serious collisions and a suspected arson case in Kings County as well as at least two cases where people went missing.

Baillie said while UAVs are outfitted with cameras they don’t have zoom capabilities so no one has to worry about having their privacy invaded for no reason.

Transport Canada actually enacted new laws on UAVs in April that dictate that govern things like how high they can operate and restrict them from getting closer than 75 metres from buildings, vehicles, animals and people.

Baillie said police will follow the rules, but there are exceptions.

“If we had a situation where someone had shot someone and ran into the woods and we wanted to get close enough to see ‘does he still have a gun in his hand?’ we’d certainly attempt to get closer than 75 metres.

“Like any tool in a police officer’s arsenal, whether it’s a baton or pepper spray, we still have to use it reasonably and justify out actions.’’