Schertz Police Department adds drone, develops UAS program to increase response abilities

A team of five with the city will start drone training next week

SCHERTZ, Texas – The Schertz Police Department is hoping new technology can help transform its response abilities.

“We can use it for lost persons, and we can use it for crime scenes,” Jim Lowery, the chief of police for Schertz PD, said. “When we complete the (police) report, we’re actually gonna have a much better report because of this technology.”

The Schertz Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association bought the drone at the end of last year.

Starting next week, two Schertz PD sergeants, two Schertz PD officers and one Geographic Information System specialist will begin their official drone training.

“I think any progressive police department has this technology,” Lowery said. “It can all be done with this technology more quickly and actually more efficiently using the technology of the camera, the spotlight, the speaker and the flair and the night vision.”

The drone the police department selected is a DJI model. Bobby Armstrong, the president of SCPAAA, said it cost around $20,000. It has a high-resolution camera, thermal imaging, a loudspeaker, and a spotlight.

Armstrong said that through fundraisers, donations and a GVEC grant, they could buy the department the drone. And he said it was an easy decision.

“There’s a lot of different things going on in our society now, and we want to make sure they’re protected,” Armstrong said. “But we also want it to do things for the community as well.”

So how will it be used? Henry Fahnert, a patrol officer with the department, said the drone can be used to enhance most police responses in Schertz.

“The most important thing is looking for people and looking for vehicles that have been running recently,” Fahnert said. “We can see what’s hot and what’s not. And that’s important at night. We can do a crime scene map of a crash or any crime scene a lot quicker, a lot easier, and a lot more precisely. You can detect heat signatures and find a missing kid a lot faster than you could on the ground with flashlights.”

Lowery said the department is currently writing its policy for drone usage, and he said they’re thinking about the privacy of Schertz residents when doing so.

“Using this platform is no different than a helicopter,” Lowery said. “So are we going to be randomly flying over people’s houses looking in their backyard? Absolutely not. We will have to have a legitimate articulable reason within the parameters set in our policy before we can launch.”

The UAS program for Schertz PD is in its early stages. The team will begin training next week. Lowery said he hopes to have the drone in regular use by the end of this spring.

About the Author

Avery Everett is a news reporter and multimedia journalist at KSAT 12 News. Avery is a Philadelphia native. If she’s not at the station, she’s either on a hiking or biking trail. A lover of charcuterie boards and chocolate chip cookies, Avery’s also looking forward to eating her way through San Antonio, one taco shop at a time!

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