If you’ve met South Orange Police Sgt. Adrian Acevedo, you know he’s a man who is passionate about policing and serving the community of South Orange.
He’s also passionate about drones.
Acevedo has been known to provide drone coverage of South Orange events like the Seton Village Food Truck & Craft Beer Fest. He has also spoken with the Columbia High School Flight Club about drone safety. And, this year, Acevedo spent about $4,000 of his own money to purchase a drone for use by the SOPD.
The drone is state of the art; however, its camera is not.
Thus, South Orange resident Andre Preoteasa is stepping up to raise funds to buy a better camera for the SOPD’s drone. A humble first step took place this fall with a bake sale, organized by Preoteasa and neighborhood youth like 12-year-old Emma Lorman. The Preoteasa and Lorman families presented a $200 check from the proceeds of the bake sale to Acevedo in November at South Orange Police Headquarters (see photo above).
While Preoteasa plans more fundraising events, he is raising funds online for the camera at this link: www.freefunder.com/
The biggest use for the drone for South Orange Police would be searching for someone at night, said Acevedo, who noted that the new camera would have thermal imaging technology, allowing drones to be used to “let us see burglars in the dark from above.”
Another use would be in an active shooter scenario: “These are dangerous situations where officer lives would be more at risk. A drone could be used to remove that human element from a particular action or operation. Where you used to need officers to be rushing through a building, a drone can lead the way. A drone can also quickly assess a scene from afar, again keeping officers a little more safe.”
The South Orange Police Department has no intention of using the technology for surveillance or routine patrol, said Acevedo, “Rather that we have the tools available and in place for emergency responses, when feasible.”
Acevedo recognized that many are wary of drones because they fear that the technology can be abused, leading to an invasion of privacy. He countered that drone use is highly regulated and that protocols are in place for the proper use of drones. He also noted that use a drone for surveillance is not simple and usually entails one officer on the ground directly another officer at the controls.
More specifically, while the State of New Jersey’s last two bills regarding drones are still a work in progress, there are already strict rules in place by the FAA which state or local governments cannot supersede. Drone use by public safety is strictly governed by the FAA’s “Small UAS Rule Part 107” as well as the FAA’s policy for obtaining a certificate of authorization for public use (Public COA). “Additionally, rules for actual operation by a public safety entity would be set forth by departmental protocols, which we currently have a model policy for,” saids Acevedo.
Ultimately, such technology, said Acevedo, represents “the future of policing.” Used properly, it can enhance safety and lower costs in towns with small departments like South Orange.
Acevedo also said that the SOPD is interested in lending the drone to the Fire Department where it likewise could increase the reach and potentially save the lives of fire victims — and firefighters.
Allan Tumillo, who supervises the CHS Flight Club, supports the use of drones by public safety agencies.
“The drone that the SOPD would use can benefit the community in a variety of ways. Drones can provide aerial views of traffic problems and accidents without having to launch a helicopter — it would be safer and far less expensive,” said Tumolillo. “Drones also can assist in providing security at large public events in the parks — having a drone help monitor large public events again reduces cost to the SOPD and can increase security. After particularly severe storms with flooding and wind damage, or after severe snowstorms, a drone can help provide the SOPD and others with a rapid visual assessment of the damage. A better and quicker assessment of damage in such situations is extremely useful.”