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RHPD getting drone

POSTED: May 17, 2017 8:11 a.m.

The Richmond Hill City Council Tuesday voted to spend almost $21,000 on a drone for the Richmond Hill Police Department that can also be used by other city entities.

“You’ll have to explain to me why we’re spending this much money on a drone,” Mayor Harold Fowler joked when he introduced the agenda item.

Capt. Jason Sakelarios then proceeded to lay out the details of the purchase and its many uses.

“This isn’t just your $50 toy that you buy at Wal-Mart,” he said. “This is a state-of-the-art piece of equipment that will serve many purposes.”

Some of the uses include searching for lost children, fleeing suspects or missing at-risk people, such as Alzheimer’s patients. It can also be used to document crime scenes.

“Using Google Earth maps, we can get real-time intel in just about any circumstance,” Sakelarios said.

The Richmond Hill Fire Department would also benefit. Sakelarios pointed out that the drone could be used to locate hot spots in a brush fire or to assess a haz-mat situation without putting personnel at risk.

“If there’s an overturned tanker, we can zoom in close enough to read the information on the truck and know what’s inside,” he said.

The drone could also be used by the Department of Public Works to find water or sewer leaks, even if they are underground.

And, given the city’s experience with Hurricane Matthew last fall, Sakelarios said it can be used to assess “post-critical incidents.”

The drone’s cameras will feature both thermal and optical imaging and have dual remote control, one each for the pilot and the camera operator. It is also small enough — about 30 inches — to fit in the back of a patrol car.

The RHPD also recognized the recent promotion of Ruben Acosta at the meeting from corporal to sergeant. Capt. Raymond Fowler said Acosta, a six-year Army veteran, has been with the department since 2008 and has been a “tremendous asset” as a patrol officer and K9 handler.

“Something like the drone will be a great tool, but people like Sgt. Acosta have always been our No. 1 resource,” he said.

The city was also recognized at the meeting by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs as a “Water First Community.” The designation means that the city has achieved “excellence in water resource management in areas such as watershed assessment, storm water master planning, wastewater treatment and management, water supply planning, water supply protection, water conservation and water reclamation and reuse,” according to a press release issued by the city.

There are just 30 other municipalities in Georgia that have received the designation since it began in 2003.

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