Halton Police Drone: High-Tech Surveillance

Increasingly key components on foreign battlefields, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are slowly starting to trickle back home. And with its Canadian-made Aeryon Scout, Halton Regional Police are on the forefront of domestic drone use.

Purchased in 2009, the Scout is used for a variety of public safety missions, including search and rescues and accident investigations. Last year the drone helped Halton Police find $744, 000 worth of marijuana growing in a Milton farmer’s field.

In the past when aerial coverage was required, police would resort to expensive and time consuming helicopter missions. Now they are in the air within minutes and at a fraction of the cost.

The Waterloo-based Aeryon Labs promotes the Scout as one of the most advanced vertical take-off and landing devices in the world. Able to fit neatly in a backpack, the Scout has a three km range with a 25 minute battery life. With different camera attachments, the Scout has a 10x optical zoom and can shoot HD video.

Aeryon_Scout_In_FlightFounded in 2007, Aeryon was one of Canada’s earliest entrants in an industry that’s growing crowded.

“The market is growing exceptionally quickly and we’re still in the early stages,” said Ian McDonald, Aeryon’s VP of marketing. “There have been a few reports about the ultimate size of the industry, but we’re seeing incredible year over year growth.”

One of those reports, a U.S. Aerospace and Defence study, pegs the drone market to hit $94 billion worldwide by 2022.

“We’ve seen an interesting transition occur. It’s something designed for military use that’s translated well to public safety and commercial use,” McDonald said.

Commercial use is broadest segment of the drone market, McDonald explained, including “precision agriculture, aerial surveying, and pipeline and infrastructure inspection.”

Though it is an young industry, strong regulations surround domestic drone use. Operators are required by Transport Canada to obtain a Special Flight Operations Certificate each time they fly, outlining the purpose of the flight, the type of equipment used, and safety precautions being taken.

“The shift is happening this year where more people are getting certificates to fly commercially,” said Dany Thivierge, owner of CanadaDrones.com, an online outlet for DIY drone makers.

Many of Thivierge’s customers, he said, are photographers trying out the equipment.

“I’d say maybe 35 per cent are photographers and want to experiment with the technology to see if it’s ok, to invest in the $5000 equipment.”

But with more drones overhead, should Canadians be worried about their privacy?

[Drones] don’t have super range, they’re not super quiet, you just have to throw something at it, and it falls from the sky. The military and police are going to do due diligence to not invade privacy. Right now they need a warrant to come into my backyard. They will need a warrant to do that from the air.

McDonald echoed those sentiments, saying “There’s framework in place for how police use a flying camera as much as there is for other cameras on the ground.”



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