IRVING, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – The Irving Police Department is training nearly two dozen officers to be drone pilots, in an effort to have the aircraft available for use around the clock.
Rather than having pilots on call, the new program will have four officers working during every shift, who have the unmanned small aircraft in their vehicles.
In addition to the pilots, every officer will be trained to be a visual observer, someone who assist pilots with scanning the airspace to make sure they’re flying safely.
It’s Irving’s first organized drone program. Most of the cost, primarily for the six small aircraft, police said was covered by a city technology grant.
“Let’s not just have a few people who have the capability to use this, who may be on duty,” said department spokesman James McClellan. ‘”Or, otherwise they would have to be called out, and it may be the middle of the night?”
While police departments can operate unmanned aircraft under a certificate of authorization from the FAA, Irving is taking the additional step of having its pilots also test to receive federal remote pilot licenses.
Wednesday, officers were training on the aircraft, practicing grid searches across a football-field sized area, flying 360-degrees around objects to see it from all sides, and zooming in on objects that were miles in the distance.
“It may help with crime scene mapping and photography, our crash scene investigations,” McClellan said. “Or it may help us catch a suspect that flees into a wooded area, or again back to the scenario of a lost child.”
All the pilots are expected to have finished training by next week.