EUGENE, Ore. -- The Eugene Police Department is slowly introducing drones into its force with two already in its fleet and more expected.
Each drone set costs $3,500 and includes a drone, a remote control and a headset. Police said they are mainly used for surveillance of large crime scenes and they rarely record video. Instead, the drones provide a live feed for officers from above.
Sgt. Kyle Williams helped start the program about two years. Williams said the drones are becoming a beneficial tool for police officers.
"So that's the real benefit we're going for is trying to expedite the process of finding people that committed crimes, being able to find them quicker, more safely for the officers and making the community safer by having a person on the loose for less time," Williams said.
Police used a drone Tuesday to help a police dog unit capture a burglary suspect in the 1700 block of West 18th Avenue. Williams said it helped lay out the perimeter of the search area for officers and allowed the police dog to work quickly to find the suspect.
"The goal is to just help to support the overwatch in order to see A if we can spot the suspect and B to provide, and hopefully to provide, some safety information to the K9s as they're doing their job on the ground," Williams said.
Even though each drone battery lasts about 30 minutes, that can translate to hours of time saved during an investigation. Williams said drones can see things officers can't from the air.
"The drone can then fill in the gaps so were not having to take the significant amount of time to scan in a large scene. They can scan in the points of real necessity and the drone can fill in the blanks," Williams said.
Police also said they would like the public to know that state law only allows drones to be used by law enforcement agencies if a warrant is attained or a crime is happening in real time, like the burglary on Tuesday. It is illegal for the police to conduct random surveillance with drones.