DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The Daytona Beach Police Department is now equipped with two more drones to add to its six, but the loaner drones police are using to enforce closures and other social distancing measures during the coronavirus pandemic are equipped with intercoms.
Drone company DJI loaned the drones to the department through a disaster relief program. Police said the flying pieces of equipment will help them disperse crowds and keep people out of all city parks, which are temporarily closed to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“We’re reducing the officer having to go out there, walk into the park property, walking into a crowd of people, share those germs back and forth just to deliver a message that, 'The park’s closed. Don’t be in here,’” said Sgt. Tim Ehrenkaufer, who heads the department’s Unmanned Aviation Systems Unit.
The department showed drone footage from one of its 30 missions over the last week. The video shows people leaving parks throughout the city and Ehrenkaufer said people fully complied. Police also demonstrated their own $27,000 drone that’s equipped with a drop hook feature that officers use in situations similar to when a beachside bomb threat was reported last year. Ehrenkaufer said it’s also helpful to drop off lifesaving materials.
“That could be anything from the life preserver that you’ve seen us drop into the lake, to somebody drowning, to a box of gloves, medication,” he said.
That same drone also has a FLIR cam that can read a person’s body temperature. Police said they will be discussing if it should be installed in their front lobby to help minimize the spread of COVID-19.
“Let’s say if you have a 103 fever, that will come in handy with letting us know from at a glance, are you somebody who possibly has the virus?" Ehrenkaufer said. "Do we need to make sure you have extra precautions and make sure that you have the extra equipment that you need?”
The department hopes the two loaner drones will officially be theirs in the future because it could possibly be another protective layer for an officer's safety.
“I think in terms of keeping officers safe, I think it’s very important,” Ehrenkaufer said.