Gadsden Police confirms it has drone aircraft - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Gadsden Police confirms it has drone aircraft

Courtesy AeroVironment, Inc. Courtesy AeroVironment, Inc.

Now it can be told: the Gadsden Police Department has two unmanned drone aircraft. And they're grounded.

The department's public information officer, Capt. Regina May, confirmed the aircraft in a story that first aired on Fox6 News Weekend.

The city acquired the two Aeronvironment WASP 3 planes with a $150,000 grant. May acknowledges then-Chief Richard Crouch kept it quiet at the time, because he didn't want "the bad guys" to know about it. Crouch has since left the department, and his successor, John Crane, says he's looking into the craft and what purpose they were intended to serve.

May says the two planes--both the size of R/C hobby planes, but with sophisticated cameras and surveillance gear--were obtained with a meth grant and were originally meant to aid in such drug cases. She also said they were meant to back up officers in raids or other special response missions.

May says police also envisioned using them to count crowds at such major Gadsden area events as Riverfest and First Friday, and to help in search and rescue operations for people missing in wooded areas.

She says people concerned about civil liberties and about the planes encroaching on them, shouldn't be. May says the department doesn't have the time, resources and most of all, the desire to do that and such activity would be "way off the charts."

May says the reasons you won't likely see them flying over Gadsden are two-fold: partly because they're meant to get around unnoticed (and the small size assists in that regard), and partly because the FAA has grounded them until further notice.

The $150,000 grant, she says, covers both craft, tracking devices, other related equipment and training.

The now-grounded aircraft are kept locked up and boxed up in storage until further notice.

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