SAPD, SAFD to implement drone programs

Police chief addresses drone policy, potential recreational safety threats

SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio police and fire departments have plans in the works to start using drones as part of their operations.

San Antonio Fire will use drones to get an aerial view of wildfires, large fires at commercial buildings, to search for missing persons or to get a bird’s eye view of storm damage or flooding.

Firefighters are currently training on use of the drones.

The police department’s drone program is still in what the department calls its infant stages, but Chief William McManus said the drones will be used in tactical situations.

The drones could be useful in situations “such as a SWAT call, where you have a person barricaded in a structure,” McManus said. “We don’t know what’s around the structure. We would send the drone up. It would send back the information and protect the officers and the public better.”

There are currently federal and state regulations in place regarding drone use, but the city’s Criminal Justice, Public Safety and Services Committee could also look at whether to enact any local ordinances pertaining to drones.

While addressing the committee Wednesday, McManus also raised the issue of possible safety threats of flying drones above crowds if the drone were to fall down on the people below.

They’re all things for the city to consider, but McManus said over-regulation is not the goal.

The committee will continue to look at the issue as the state legislature also debates whether to pass additional legislation pertaining to drones. 

There is no date yet for when the police and fire departments will roll out their drone programs.

About the Author:

Myra Arthur is passionate about San Antonio and sharing its stories. She graduated high school in the Alamo City and always wanted to anchor and report in her hometown. Myra anchors KSAT News at 6:00 p.m. and hosts and reports for the streaming show, KSAT Explains. She joined KSAT in 2012 after anchoring and reporting in Waco and Corpus Christi.