Canyon County gets 'bird's eye view' with new drone

Canyon County gets 'bird's eye view' with new drone

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by Andrea Lutz

Bio | Email | Follow: @KTVBandrealutz

KTVB.COM

Posted on April 24, 2012 at 10:23 PM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 25 at 1:15 PM

CANYON COUNTY -- Deputy Chief Steve Donahue with the Caldwell Fire Department, is one of only a handful of Canyon County residents now trained to use the Draganflyer X-6 drone.

Tuesday, he let KTVB see pictures from a recent training he attended in Canada, at the Draganflyer manufacturing headquarters.

“It's all made of space aged materials and composite metals and stuff like that. So it's pretty cool,” said Donahue.

“It looks like a bug basically,” he said. “But it doesn't look like it costs that much.”

It sounds like something straight from the future; a high flying helicopter drone and county officials are expecting one of their own in just weeks. Donahue said this drone will provide a better tool to emergency response agencies.

“I think this is just another leg in technology that we are going to see that is going to improve how we respond,” said Donahue.
     
The benefits of the drone's bird's eye view will keep residents safe, explained Donahue.

It was purchased for $34,000 with a Homeland Security grant and when it arrives, Canyon County plans to use it as an extra eye in the sky to view crime scenes, fires, hazmat incidents, even county flooding.

“This is purely recognizance; it’s going to take pictures. Some of the things we will use it for; (if) there is an automobile accident, we can launch it up over the intersection and take pictures with the measurements and they can look at the skid marks and things like that; reconstruct the accident,” said Donahue.

However, others have concerns about just how much this new technology would be able to see.

The American Civil Liberties Union serves as a watchdog for the government, making sure personal rights are not overstepped.

“There is a high percentage of Idahoans that have serious concerns with regards to privacy,” said ACLU of Idaho Communications Coordinator Leo Morales.

The ACLU of Idaho believes privacy rules should be established with Canyon County’s new drone.

“We hope that the new technology is used in a way that respects transparency, privacy rights. You know there are always bad apples in departments or sometimes the intuition can go in a different direction and that is when our civil liberties are of concern,” said Morales.

“It’s going to be for a safety purposes, we are going to keep our people safe. We are not going to go spying in windows and things like that,” said Donahue.

Donahue knows the argument and assured Tuesday, the drone is going to be used or good and safety.

“We really don’t want to be flying over people's backyards looking in their backyards,” he said.

Donahue also said the drone only works with line of sight. The drone will drop to the ground if the operator loses sight of it.

The FAA has placed a variety of regulations on the use of the drone; Donahue said they have to notify the agency when they use it.

Canyon County will only train with their new drone once it arrives. It is being manufactured in Canada, and is expected to arrive in three weeks.
   


 

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