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Morro Bay Police actively using drones to help with enforcement

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Posted at 10:34 PM, Nov 19, 2019

MORRO BAY, Calif. — The Morro Bay Police Department is actively using drones as its new eyes in the sky to help officers on the ground.

Officers say right now they're the only department in the county with this type of drone program and they hope it continues to grow.

In a matter of minutes, Dave Pabinquit, a volunteer at the Morro Bay Police Department is able to lift one of the department's drones off the ground.

"It makes much more sense to have a volunteer fly the drone so the police officers can be free to do the policing activities they need to do," Pabinquit said.

The drones first came to the department two years ago and are now being used for everything from foot pursuits, to crowd control, and even finding trespassers on Morro Rock.

"Aerial views give you a much different picture of a crime scene or an accident scene versus feet on the ground visual," Commander Amy Watkins said.

The bird’s eye view isn't limited to the drone pilot.

Through an HDMI cord, the drone is able to project what it's seeing inside a Morro Bay Police Officer's incident command vehicle, giving a larger screen to display the drone's photos or digital feed that can be up to 4K resolution.

Some of the cameras on the drones can be interchanged with infrared ones to help officers search at night.

"We will not use them for any type of proactive surveillance - meaning we dont throw them up in the air and look for illegal activity," Commander Watkins said.

Currently there is one volunteer and two officers certified to fly the drones for the department, but Morro Bay Police say they hope to get more officers certified with the FAA.

The drones the department uses are the same ones regular consumers can buy, but they cost about $1,300.