Police get an 'eye in the sky'
The Monroe Police Department will add an unmanned aircraft system to their crime-fighting tool.
The Maveric, made by local company Condor, is not capable of providing constant surveillance. It is a “quick response unit” Lieutenant David Morton explained.
The Maveric would be used in case of a bank robbery, or any incident where the officers are pursuing someone on foot. It is an extra pair of “eyes in the sky” Morton explained.
The department gave a presentation to the Monroe City Council at their 4 p.m. Tuesday meeting. City Council unanimously approved the purchase of the Maveric for the department. A policy will be formulated regulating who can use the system and when.
The Maveric would cost roughly $44,000. The money would come from the department’s asset forfeiture funds, not taxpayer money. The units ordinarily retail for about $70,000 or more.
It has night vision and is capable of traveling 60 miles per hour, Morton said. It uses a global positioning system and is controlled over radio frequencies.
The unmanned system takes fewer than two minutes to deploy and can be launched by hand or from a tube.
If it is approved, the Monroe Police Department will be the first force in North Carolina to have this technology.
Fred Culbertson, the founder and president of Condor Aerial, said the Maveric has been around since 2003. However, it was only made available for domestic use last year. Since then, they have redesigned it for law enforcement budgets and practicality.
Culbertson explained that when people hear about unmanned aircraft vehicles, they often imagine predator drones offering constant surveillance.
“This system doesn’t have that availability by any stretch of the imagination,” Culbertson said.
Their average flight-time is an hour to an hour and a half, Culbertson said.
“What they’re designed to do is be an immediate response vehicle,” he said.
They are used to provide aerial surveillance, without the cost of a helicopter, he said. They are designed for search and rescue, natural disasters, pursuits and other aerial needs.
“The controversy in this is the privacy issue,” Culbertson said. “That’s just not what we provide...they’re just not even designed for that.”
The Maveric is currently in operation in military theaters overseas. The Navy Seals currently use them to look over ridges and other obstructions before they advance on foot.
The Maveric is currently in use by several law enforcement agencies in the country.
“They all love it because it brings another perspective to a tactical situation that they haven’t had before,” Culbertson said.
There are 80,000 law enforcement agencies in the country and fewer than 160 of them have aerial capability, Culbertson said.