Remote Controlled Planes Fighting Drugs In Picayune

Remote controlled unmanned planes have been added to the Picayune Police Department's arsenal to fight illegal drug activity.

"We're going to use any resource that we can possibly put our hands on to fight the drug problem in this area," Lt. Joel Hudson said.

The Picayune Police Department has partnered with Air-O-Space, a company that does remote sensing work for NASA and commercial clients. A video camera mounted on miniature planes allows police to do overhead surveillance without leaving the ground.

"Have video in different locations which are basically geographically impossible for an officer to get into that area without him being noticed," Major David Ervin said.

Air-O-Space officials say the small planes fly high enough that people on the ground can't see them or hear them. And the tiny cameras can zoom in on a home or business with pin point accuracy.

"The officer on the ground can say, 'that looks interesting, go left, go to the right, go higher, go lower.' And we can do that with remote control. This plane is also equipped to carry scientific sensors," Skip Wright, Manager of Air-O-Space, said.

While an aircraft is circling an area, investigators are monitoring what's being recorded from a van full of surveillance equipment.

"It's safe you don't expose an officer or citizens to any conflict," Major Ervin said.

And Ervin says the high flying technology gives officers a new perspective on fighting crime.

The Picayune Police Department is one of the first in the nation to use unmanned planes to search out drug criminals. But the technology could also be used during other emergencies, like flooding or a chemical spill, to help with determining the need for evacuations.

by Al Showers