ROBINSON, Ill. (WTHI) - Technology is making its way into our everyday lives, yet again. This time, it's being used to help solve crimes.
At first there was one drone. Sergeant David Marqua with the Robinson Police Department recalls, "We wanted to use it to see if it would fit with some of the ideas we had and some of the purposes we wanted to use it for."
Marqua says the department found great success in using the first drone. After a big donation, the Robinson Police Department now has two drones, and four officers licensed to operate them.
All four officers took a glimpse into the aviation world while studying for the FAA test. Once they felt they were prepared, all four took, and passed, the FAA Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test. Those officers are Chief Chad Weaver, Sgt. David Marqua, Officer Eric Schmidt, and Officer Isiah Osborne.
Marqua says, "I like to see departments such as ours grow with technology. I started 29 years ago now, we didn't have any in-car computers, cameras. Now we've got computers in the cars, cameras in the cars. Now we're using, utilizing drones to help further some of our investigations."
One drone is used to get high quality photos and videos from above. Those images can be viewed by the department's virtual reality headsets. The other drone, is equipped with Flir technology that picks up on heat sources.
Marqua explains, "Let’s say we've got somebody barricaded in the building or we're just doing a building search, if we're unaware if somebody is in there, we can send a drone into a building without sending a live person in, which is obviously going to be a lot safer. We can always buy another drone, humans are hard to replace."
Marqua shares that searching for a missing juvenile or criminals isn't the only use for the drones.
He says, "The Chief of Police was called to Jasper County. They had a semi rollover, over there, with some hazardous materials. So, they notified him and we actually used a smaller drone on it to fly into the accident to see where the leak was and to see how to mitigate the leak."
While flying, Marqua says at least one person has to keep an eye on the drone at all times. He adds that maximum flying altituted is 400 feet. He says the department plans to test other drone applications later this year.
The Sergeant says, "We’re still waiting to use it on some stuff. Fortunately we've got some time to kind of learn it, and to practice with it."
The Robinson Police Department says it's willing to assist and partner with other law enforcement agencies in the area with this technology. All you have to do is call the department at (618) 544-2217.