Eye in the sky: Nova Scotia RCMP demonstrate new drone to be used by force

Published on July 23, 2014
RCMP Const. Mark Skinner flies one of the force's new drones outside their Burnside headquarters on Tuesday.
Metro Halifax/Jeff Harper

HALIFAX - RCMP across Nova Scotia have welcomed five new members to their team who can go into dangerous situations alone, look at a crime scene like never before, or find a lost person in the dark.

On Tuesday, Const. Mark Skinner of the RCMP showcased one of the unmanned aerial systems (or drones) now used in Halifax, New Minas, Bible Hill, Sydney, and Yarmouth.

“It certainly gives us a safety edge,” Skinner said after flying the black Draganflyer X4-P model up about 60 metres into the sky outside the RCMP headquarters in Burnside.

One of the main uses will be to keep officers safe during an “active threat situation” like a school shooting or barricaded person, Skinner said, where the drone can go in and see where the exits are and gather video evidence.

“We hope they never ever happen, but this is what we have in case they do happen so we can protect citizens but also police.”

The $30,000 model can take high-quality aerial photos up to a maximum height of about 152 metres or 500 feet, Skinner said, which is especially helpful in reconstructing a car collision or viewing a major crime scene.

Monday’s Highway 103 collision near Mahone Bay was the first official time a drone was used, and Skinner said the photos will help “significantly” in court when officers are called upon to testify because skid marks and the point of impact are clearly visible.

In a search and rescue scenario, the remote-controlled drones can use a thermal image setting to spot people lost in the woods and send up a flare, although Skinner said it’s uses are limited because of the 20-minute battery life.

Although the drones won’t change day-to-day police operations, Skinner said it will enhance investigations overall while protecting officers and saving money.

“If we have a tool that is cheaper and more cost-effective than using a helicopter … and gives a higher ability of officer safety, those are all pluses,” Skinner said.