Orland Park to start operating state's first police drone

Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Orland Park police to start using drones
The Orland Park Police Department could start using drones as soon as late spring.

ORLAND PARK, Ill. (WLS) -- The Orland Park Police Department will soon be the first municipal police department in Illinois to operate its own drone.

The new crime fighting technology is a small, lightweight Gyrocam that shoots 4K video and has a Orland Park police logo. It is a cop drone, although police departments prefer the acronym UAS - unmanned aircraft system.

"I think the public demands that we use more technology and work smarter - and this is a way for us to work smarter and use technology at the same time," said Chief Tim McCarthy, of the Orland Park Police Department.

Six Orland Park officers are about to be tested as ground based operators, and it's no pushover exam.

Orland Park sees this flying machine as a means to assist in missing person's searches, photography of accident scenes and other situations where there's an immediate threat to public safety.

"If we have something like a barricaded subject in a house we'd be able to sit over it. you're gonna have a perimeter anyway, but to sit over it to see if someone goes out a window or a door will be very helpful to the incident commander," McCarthy said.

The drone's potential as a police tool is significant. However, there's also long been concern the tool has a potential for abuse.

There is a relatively new law that governs when and under what circumstances police departments in Illinois can use drone technology, called the Freedom from Drone Surveillance Act.

Orland Park recently passed an ordinance that restricts personal drone use to only over the drone owner's property, unless other property owners grant them permission.