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N.H. police department to receive drones thanks to federal grant

The department plans to use the drones to assist largely with search and rescue, especially with missing persons and children

By Angelina Berube
The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass.

SALEM, N.H. — The police department has put out purchase bids for its drone program which will help the department in search and rescue efforts.

Salem Police saw other agencies like Derry Police, New Hampshire Fish and Game and Southern New Hampshire Special Operations Unit successfully use drones in different scenarios like finding missing people, traffic accidents and crime scenes, Salem Capt. Jason Smith told The Eagle-Tribune in an email.

The department saw their potential in Salem, he added.

They’ve worked out plans for the drone program for two and a half years which is being paid for with a federal grant.

The department was awarded a $42,913 grant in October 2021 by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Department of Homeland Security — and managed by the New Hampshire Department of Safety.

Smith sees the department using drones to assist largely with search and rescue, especially with missing persons and children.

He said Salem Police had to use Derry’s drone unit in a recent search effort for a missing person.

The department watched as New Hampshire Fish and Games successfully deployed drones to find a missing Hampstead man when foot and K-9 searches yielded no returns. Smith also noted Derry Police has effectively utilized its drone program for about a year.

With its own drone unit, Smith sees the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) being used to search specific spots where a missing person may end up and get a bird’s-eye view of locations hard to navigate on foot.

“We also anticipate the same for suspects who have fled the police and are likely to be found in a certain area,” Smith said.

The drones will also aid in nighttime searches. If Salem Police need to find people in the woods at night, they would need to use a helicopter with thermal equipment.

While the drones will assist with searches, they will also be used during large town events like the Fourth of July celebration or Salem Holiday Parade to monitor the crowds.

Smith said the drones will additionally serve with scene documentation of major car crashes or at a crime scene as well as tactical deployments for hostage situations or barricaded subjects.

“We envision all of these scenarios likely drone deployment situations,” Smith said. “A drone can also hover for many hours in one location during large public events to provide a supervisor or command center real time view on the size of crowd or parking and traffic issues.”

Salem Police plan to roll out the drone unit in three to six months.

The police department has selected members for its drone unit and conducted training for those members. Once the drones come in, Smith said the unit members will complete more training with the new acquisition.

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