Maine State Police are becoming drone pilots, launching a new program to use the unmanned aerial vehicles in their police work.
"This has exceeded our expectations," said Major Chris Grotton. "So far, it has been more efficient, increased safety, and the volume of use seems to be increasing over time."
The department has spent $18,000 and several months practicing. They plan to primarily use the drones on crash reconstruction.
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Grotton said the drones can take photographs overhead, minimizing the time spent taking photographs on the ground and shutting down traffic.
"We can do in minutes what used to take us hours," he said.
Maine State Police may also use the equipment in search and rescue operations, disaster surveys, and criminal investigations.
"They're supposed to go to court and ask for a warrant," said ACLU of Maine Legal Director Zach Heiden. "We're concerned about the development of technology where the government can put us all under surveillance at all times."
Police say they will balance personal privacy and public safety by following procedures in their newly crafted drone policy. Grotton said MSP consulted with the ACLU and the Maine Attorney General before writing department guidelines. They will also follow federal and state law, he said.
"We have multiple layers of guidance, policy, and restrictions to make sure we're doing this correctly," he said.