DUBUQUE, Iowa — Police and fire departments in eastern Iowa have added aerial drones to their fleets in the hopes of increasing safety and making first responders more effective.

Dubuque police officers and firefighters are undergoing the required training to operate the new drones, The Telegraph Herald reported .

The drones and their accessories cost about $9,000 each, city officials said.

The drone’s infrared capabilities mean it can identify heat sources, said Fire Chief Rick Steines. That can help authorities improve safety in situations with hazardous materials and make it easier to find missing persons, he said.

Lt. Morgan Eitter is one of the fire department’s three certified drone pilots.

“I think it’s a great tool, and I think it’s going to develop into an even better tool once we get going with it,” said Lt. Morgan Eitter.

Police Department Cpl. Travis Kramer said the drone can help officers gather information before executing potentially dangerous search warrants, find hiding suspects and provide a better view of major crash scenes. Kramer said he is one of three police officers who have been trained to use the drone. Two others are in the process of being licensed to operate it.

Officials from both departments said they’ll create usage policies for the drones before they’re used in official operations.

Police officers are required to follow search-and-seizure guidelines whenever they collect evidence so it can be used in court, Kramer said.

“If it’s an illegal search, all of the fruits thereof are gone (and unusable in court),” he said.

The city’s engineering department and cable TV division each also have a drone, said Randy Gehl, a city spokesman.


Information from: Telegraph Herald, http://www.thonline.com