Woodbury getting drone to aid police, firefighters

The Woodbury Public Safety Department is adding a drone to its ranks to give personnel a bird’s-eye view when responding to emergencies.

The Woodbury City Council approved the purchase at its Jan. 27 meeting. The drone will be deployed for search-and-rescue situations, fire scenes and crash and crime scene investigations. Police will also be able to use it to serve search warrants in some cases.

Members of the community were given a chance to voice their comments and concerns in December before the council approved the addition. Some of the comments related to privacy, data retention, deployment, cost, public notification, training and partnerships, Woodbury Mayor Anne Burt said in a news release.

The city currently relies on outside agencies such as the Minnesota State Patrol and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office for aerial support, and the addition of a drone could speed up the response for getting an eye in the sky in time-sensitive situations.

Woodbury will not use the drone for random patrols, and there will be strict limits on how it is used in residential areas, according to the release.

Two Woodbury police officers have been certified as pilots, so no new staff will be added to operate the drone, which cost $39,000. That price does not include upkeep or the purchase of software to aid in flight logging and data management.