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Delta Police using drones to monitor gatherings, look for missing people

Last Updated Sep 30, 2020 at 3:33 pm PST

Officers recently used a drone to assess crowd size and direction during gatherings after Vancouver Canucks' playoff games on the Surrey-Delta border. (Courtesy Delta Police Department)
Summary

The police department launched the $120,000 program, in partnership with the Delta Fire Department, in August

Officers recently used a drone to assess crowd size and direction during gatherings after Canucks' playoff games

The drones are not covert and have navigation lights so the public can see them

DELTA (NEWS 1130) — The Delta Police Department assures people it will respect their privacy after using drones to surveil Stanley Cup crowds and to look for a missing person.

The police department launched the $120,000 drone program, in partnership with the Delta Fire Department, in August.

Officers recently used a drone to assess crowd size and direction during gatherings after Vancouver Canucks’ playoff games on the Surrey-Delta border, due to physical distancing concerns related to COVID-19.

A drone was used again last month to help search for a missing senior with dementia.

All “missions” must be planned and approved by a police manager, while respecting Nav Canada guidelines.

“We understand there could be concerns from the public in regard to expectation of privacy, now that this program is in effect,” Delta Police Supt. Harj Sidhu says in a release. “I’d like to reassure the public that this expectation of privacy is considered in all circumstances, particularly in regard to the retention of any videos or images. Furthermore, our pilots will ensure that express and informed permission or judicial authorization is granted, unless there are exigent circumstances.”

The drones can fly day or night. The pilots are police officers who have completed ground school training and hold a Transport Canada Advanced Remotely Piloted Aircraft System license.

“We will be using the drones in a variety of circumstances, such as helping to locate high-risk missing people, to document crime scenes and major collisions, provide structure and wildfire assistance to Delta Fire Department and for disaster response,” adds Sidhu.

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If a drone is launched in a residential area due to a critical incident, and films someone in their backyard, that person’s image would be blurred, should the photo or video be required in court.

The drones are not covert and have navigation lights so the public can reasonably expect to see them in a variety of circumstances.

“Given Delta’s complex geography including extensive coastline, large parks, and Burns Bog, having the capabilities to do aerial searches in a variety of weather was important to us from a public safety perspective,” says Sidhu.