Sky’s the Limit Pt. 1: Plymouth Drones Take Off
Plymouth is taking to the air. From public works to promotions to the police, Plymouth’s new drone initiative promises to make it easier to get city business done. Laurie Hokkanen, Plymouth’s administrative services director, will oversee the new program. She says storm water pond inspection is one example of how drones will make city workers more efficient.
“Physically getting your eyes on the structures within the pond,” Hokkanen says, is “putting on the waders. It’s getting in the pond or getting close to it. ” She says if workers stand on the edge of the pond and fly a drone in for a look, the work will go much faster.
But it’s not just inspections that will become more efficient. The city also plans to use drones to map crowd movement at events. “Something like Music in Plymouth,” says Hokkanen. “We have over 10,000 people that routinely attend, and at the end of the night everybody wants to go home at the same time.”
The city plans to loft a drone over city hall to watch how the crowd disperses. They’ll use what they learn to come up with better ways to move people out of the area.
Although Hokkanen stresses that police work won’t be the largest part of the drone pie, she does say the flying camera systems will be useful to find missing people or property. Disaster recovery and emergency management are other potential uses for the cops. But, Hokkanen acknowledges that some residents might be uncomfortable with the idea of police-operated flying cameras.
Privacy, she says, is “very important. And so there are activities that require a search warrant right now. And if we were ever to use a drone in those type of activities, a search warrant would be required for that as well.”
The city plans to protect privacy by implementing policies about when the camera is, and is not, recording. “If we’re flying the drone from a location to a storm water pond and it’s not necessary to record during the flight or get it there, we won’t record. We’ll take the pictures once we get there.”
The city hopes to have its drones up and flying by this summer. The total cost, including hardware, training, and operator certification, will be around $20,000.