Kendallville police, fire find drone use beneficial | News Sun | –

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Partly cloudy skies. High 53F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph..
Clear to partly cloudy. Low 33F. Winds light and variable.
Updated: November 6, 2021 @ 5:26 am
The Kendallville Police Department’s drone.

The Kendallville Police Department’s drone.
KENDALLVILLE ― Since Kendallville’s first responders began using a drone in December 2020, they have found the addition of it to greatly benefit both the police and fire departments.
The city purchased the drone last year to help police and firefighters in various situations. Its cost was nearly $26,000.
The drone has a camera attached to it with features including a zoom lens, thermal imaging and rangefinder abilities.
“There have been times that is has been valuable,” said Lance Waters, Kendallville police chief. “Other departments have been using it, particularly the fire department.”
The idea to buy a drone for the department came from Patrolman Matt Gillison who approached Waters about the technology and how it would help the department.
Waters said there was some skepticism at first from some in city government due to its cost, but eventually came along to see the potential benefits of having one in the city.
Gillison is the sole drone operator in the police department and went through extensive training to receive certification from the Federal Aviation Administration.
“This was something we felt we could use to make our jobs more efficient,” Waters said.
The police department has a fairly detailed policy regarding use of its drone for certain situations.
Recently, the department used it for assisting the fire department with the fire at the Wash ‘N’ Dry building.
He said they also use the drone to assist firefighters with structure fires and searching for missing people or a person on the run.
“It gets a different perspective. If it helps make situations a safer operation, then I think it’s absolutely worth it,” he said.
The drone was also used when the bank robbery occurred at the Three Rivers Federal Credit Union building in August.
It allows the department to get aerial photos of a crime scene and for lesser threatening situations like viewing the parking area during the Apple Festival.
Larger police departments have already been using drones for their operations. He said the Fort Wayne police department has a whole team of drone operators they use for various situations.
“As technology advances, we are trying to have a more progressive approach,” he said.
Some of the skepticism when considering the purchase of the drone came from Fire Chief Jeremy McKinley.
He said he was skeptical at first due to the high price tag and what the need for it would be for the fire department.
Over time, he realized the potential it had to help with emergency operations and stopped in at Tuesday’s Kendallville City Council meeting to issue praise for the drone, its operator and the police department’s assistance.
“I was unaware before that this technology existed,” he said. “I began to find that the drone was a game changer for us.”
During the Wash ‘N’ Dry fire, the high definition camera helped penetrate through the smoke from the building and allowed firefighters to better pinpoint where they needed to focus their efforts.
Officer Gillison was able to operate the drone from the department’s command post and provide feedback to the firefighters.
“The drone was able to hover over the building and livestream what’s happening,” he said. “The camera was able to see right through the smoke.”
He said the drone’s camera helps them understand the surroundings of the area they’re in and gives them a good tactical advantage in battling fires.
“It helps us know where to attack the fire,” he said.
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