ONEIDA — The state police are taking to the air with the launch of their new aerial drone program.
Troop D, which oversees Oneida County and Central New York, showed off its new unmanned aerial system at a demonstration in Oneida on Friday. Captain Scott Reichel said the new drone will be used for traffic safety, disaster response, documenting crime scenes and, in time, accident reconstruction.
“The evolution of technology has come to the point where it’s available, it’s affordable,” Reichel said Friday. “And it’s a very efficient means of getting an aerial observation platform up in the sky in a timely manner.”
Troop D is one of four state police zones that have received the drones. Troopers said they plan to expand to nine zones by the end of March. The other zones with new drones cover western New York, the Hudson River and the Albany area. Officials said they hope to have a total of 14 drones by the spring.
Each drone costs about $7,000, with money coming from the state and the New York State Trooper Foundation, a charity that raises private funds for state police training and equipment.
Troopers said the unmanned drones provide a significant cost savings over manned aircraft, such as helicopters. This also reduces response time.
In a dangerous situation, like a natural disaster or an active crime scene, the drones will keep troopers out of harm’s way.
“We can overwatch our personnel. We can look out for them and see where they’re going, direct them to different things,” said Reichel.
“It gives us just an added measure of security, an added measure of observation, when we’re conducting these types of operations.”
Troopers said the drones have already been used to document ice jams in the Sauquoit and Fish creeks in Whitesboro and Sylvan Beach.