PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — The Port St. Lucie Police Department showed off one of its new drones Monday to help keep the public safe and serve the community.
The drone program is now part of the department's SWAT team.
"We deploy them for missing persons, for Alzheimer’s patients, kids, whoever is getting out. We have them work with our K-9 teams to track if there's an in-progress crime," said Officer Matt Reynolds, one of the five licensed drone pilots in the department.
There are restrictions on when and how the drones can be activated, but they can be used in conjunction with a police helicopter when minutes count.
"By the time we establish we need an air unit, and he gets down here, it could be 30 to 35 minutes. By that time, I could be done with a battery," Reynolds said.
The quality of the video captured is also far superior to the older drones, which often lacked definition.
Police said their two new drones have a thermal camera and zoom capability 12 times better than their previous drones.
Better video can lead to better outcomes if engaging a suspect.
"You can almost see that they maybe have a weapon in their hand, or they have a baseball bat or a fishing pole or whatever that may be," Reynolds said.
Part of the proceeds for the high-tech device was paid for by Mission BBQ, which raised money through its American Hero Cup program.
Drones are not the only new technology coming to the police department -- also on the agenda are body cameras.
Police Chief John Bolduc is planning to outfit all 261 sworn officers with cameras by Oct. 1, with a trial period this summer.
"It’s become the new standard in law enforcement. It's something the public expects and become a measuring stick for transparency," Bolduc said.
The department requested an initial $780,000 investment from the city to marry new technology worn on the ground with what is being used in the air.