EASLEY, S.C. (WSPA) – Easley Police has a drone first responder program that’s one of only about a dozen across the country.
Reserve Officer Stephen Baxley took an idea to Police Chief Stan Whitten shortly after he took over the department. Baxley owns a business called Air works which includes drones.
“We talked about the theory of a drone responding from a centralized location in the city to anywhere in the city,” Baxley said. “Getting there essentially before our patrol cars would arrive.”
Baxley and his team of eight pilots can launch one of the department’s six drones within 20 to 30 seconds of getting a call.
“A drone flies at 33, 34 miles per hour typically. Once the drone gets in the air it goes up to 200 feet and then straight to the call, so we don’t have to worry about traffic,” he tells 7NEWS.
The department is licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration to fly anywhere within the Easley city limits.
Baxley said a drone can arrive on a scene three or four miles away in five minutes or less.
Once the drone gets there, its live camera can help police decide if more, or fewer, resources will be needed on the ground.
Baxley can fly a drone to a call scene, as far as six miles away, from a laptop inside police headquarters.
“It’s basically dropping a pin on a map and telling it to go, and it goes there, and that’s when we can control cameras once we get on the scene,” according to officer Baxley.
He also wants people in the city to know when they see drones flying overhead, that Easley Police value the privacy of citizens.
“A lot of people are concerned with the drone flying over and erroneously looking down,” Baxley said. “Our policy is the drone flies from the launch point to the call point and it flies with the camera on horizon, meaning the camera is straight out and basically looking at the sky.”
The officer adds no live video from the drone is recorded until after it arrives at the scene of a call.