The next time you see Lakewood Police respond to a missing persons call don’t be surprised if you also see an unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone, hovering above helping with the search.
The department began using drone technology at the end of 2017. That’s when its Unmanned Aerial System program was established.
The regulations were sent to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which vetted and reviewed them before ultimately issuing a Certificate of Authorization.
The city’s policies state drone technology can only be used for specific operations including:
- Situational awareness: assessing damage in hazardous conditions.
- Search and rescue: assist with missing persons investigations.
- Tactical deployment: help provide awareness to support officers/equipment being sent into emergency situations (to extent possible this will be done with judicial approval).
- Crime scene investigation: document, measure, locate and assist in investigation of a crime scene.
- Traffic collision investigation: document, measure, locate and assist in collision investigations.
- Search warrant: collect evidence of a crime under an approved judicial search warrant.
While using drones the department will maintain its priorities on safety, transparency and privacy. Each month the city will post the monthly Unmanned Aerial Vehicle reports to the city’s website, which show how the device was used. Visit cityoflakewood.us/police for that information.
Lakewood Police Officers Michael McGettigan, Shawn Noble and Austin Lee use the department’s drone during a recent practice run at Fort Steilacoom Park.