Michigan State Police test drone in Lansing

LANSING — The future of crime fighting was featured at the proving grounds of the Michigan State Police Wednesday afternoon in Lansing.

“Our agency is excited about potential uses for this device,” said Lt. Patrick Lawrence, the Chief Pilot for the MSP. “We’re happy to be leaders in the law enforcement community and getting the approvals we needed from the FAA in getting the approvals we need to operate.”

The Unmanned Aircraft System, or UAS, is controlled by two pilots. The UAS will be used to help the Michigan State Police in many different situations and scenarios.

“The request will come in and we will decide, based on our experience, what needs to be done and what needs to be obtained, if we need to do it in a manned situation (helicopter), or the UAS flyer,” said Sgt. Jerry King of the MSP. “For those missions where we can use it, it’s certainly going to be cheaper.”

With a price tag of $160,000 and weighing just 5.3 pounds, the UAS can take both video and pictures at a maximum altitude of 400 feet. When the device is used during nighttime hours, a three-man crew will be used to run the drone.

The lone drone in the fleet will stay at a local airport in Lansing, but that doesn’t mean that the drone won’t make an appearance someday in the Upper Peninsula.

“We have a statewide authorization for it,” said Lawrence. “The methodology is that it will deploy from Lansing and get to the scene, whether it’s in the Upper Peninsula or the Lower Peninsula and we will respond to the scene with the device we have. As time goes on and they prove as useful as we might think, then we might actually purchase a device for the Upper Peninsula.”

For those of you worried about privacy concerns about the drone, Lt. Lawrence says that you have nothing to worry about.

“All missions are to be approved by a District Commander,” said Lawrence. “We have strict policies in place, media retention requirements for all of the evidence we collect on the cameras. Just know that we are operating within those guidelines. If there are more guidelines in the future, because the rules change on this all of the time, then we will operate within the new guidelines.”