The Auburn Police Department is seeking to expand its drone program by acquiring four unmanned aerial system public safety drones.
The department aims to add two smaller drones and two mid-sized units to its existing drone fleet. Bids for the unmanned aerial systems are due on March 10, according to Auburn City Manager Jeff Dygert, who announced the bid request during an Auburn City Council meeting on February 23rd.
The department’s current drone has proven useful for reconnaissance and surveillance purposes and can handle different weather conditions. However, the new machines would be smaller and lighter and could be used in tighter areas like within buildings and rooms, said Auburn Deputy Police Chief Roger Anthony in an interview with The Citizen. He also praised the new drones for their tactical advantages over the existing drone.
Since the council approved the acquisition of a FLIR R-70 drone from FLIR Maritime US for $66,900 in September 2020, the APD has been asked to use the machine on behalf of different city departments. The APD drone has been used for taking pictures of city events and capturing photos of fires. Multiple Auburn officers are now certified to operate drones.
The new drones would be funded using asset forfeiture money seized from criminal activities, primarily drug-related cases conducted in partnership with the DEA. The funds are eventually forfeited or waived by the owner and are then divided up among the agencies that participated in the initial investigation. Anthony previously noted that the asset forfeiture money has specific guidelines on how it can be spent.
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