How the Troy Police Department is using drones to enhance its investigations

Drones can be used in missing person cases, crash investigations and more

The Troy Police Department is using drone technology to help in a variety of cases ranging from missing people to traffic crashes.
The Troy Police Department is using drone technology to help in a variety of cases ranging from missing people to traffic crashes.

TROY, Mich. – The Troy Police Department is using drone technology to help in a variety of cases ranging from missing people to traffic crashes.

Police have been using drones to do mapping of their busiest intersections. One of the intersections was 14 Mile Road and Interstate 75. Another intersection was Big Beaver Road and I-75. Those areas have heavy traffic and are known for car crashes.

“It’s supposed to help with traffic flow. That is why they changed the intersection. We have used the drones to fly the intersection to take photos of it,” said Troy police officer Gail Para. “We can fly around the vehicles that were involved in the crash or when we go very high we will get the entire crash scene so we will see the debris field. We will see any skid marks that are involved.”

The department’s drone team is made up of 10 officers who have gone through training and are licensed. They know the rules of using a drone. They have to follow Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules and be aware of citizens rights and privacy.

Read: Purchased a drone? Here’s everything you need to know before you fly in Michigan

“Our tactical support team could utilize the drone to help look for an individual as extra eyes in the sky. Also, instead of sending an officer into a potentially dangerous situation, so they don’t know what is around the corner,” Troy police officer Bob Smith said.

A drone could potentially do surveillance around or near a building to help locate a person they are looking for. Drones are also great when someone goes missing.

“We get calls frequently for missing juveniles, missing walk-aways from group homes and we will deploy the drone and if they are at risk or in danger and we will fly it over the area where they were last seen or where they think they may be heading,” Smith said.

The department has five drones. They cost the department around $12,000 for equipment and training to start the team. A department spokesperson said man-hours are saved when a drone can help whether it be a missing person case or a traffic crash reconstruction. The photos and videos help the team decipher what happened.

The drone unit was used most recently at a fatal shooting at a gas station in Troy at Wattles and Rochester roads. Detroit Fire Department Lt. Frank Dombrowski, 55, was shot in the parking lot of a Shell gas station. The video will be used in the court case.

Read: Detroit Fire Department lieutenant dies after road rage shooting at Troy gas station


About the Authors:

Karen Drew is the anchor of Local 4 News First at 4, weekdays at 4 p.m. She is also an award-winning investigative reporter and part of the Local 4 Defenders team.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.