Last week, Police Chief Pete Carey said he was looking at reactivating the Police Department's helicopter unit, as well as unmanned aircraft — drones, in other words.
His comments came during Mayor Steve Bach's town hall meeting at Broadmoor Elementary, after a citizen asked what can be done to get aviation assets to respond to wildland fires quicker and whether drones are viable for early detection of fires.
"Unmanned aircraft is going to be the future," Carey said. "There's a lot of concerns about this, as far as restricted air space, especially around Colorado Springs, with the military bases."
Then he added:
In the last couple of months I've put together a small group to look at whether or not public safety can benefit from restarting our aviation unit. We lost our helicopter program a few years ago. There's pros and cons to that. They're expensive to fly. They're noisy. I think unmanned UAVs are in the future three, four, five years from now. There are some opportunities to look at fixed-wing aircraft for fire mitigation and determining point of origin and stopping the fire before it gets really bad. So we are looking at that. I am very, very interested in public-private partnerships.
Restarting the helicopter unit? Spy planes? Fixed-wing planes? Who knew these tools were on the table?
So we asked for more information, such as who's in the "small group," how long has the group been meeting, what possibilities are being looked at, and so on?
But we didn't find out much. (Perhaps Carey doesn't want citizens to know what the department is considering, or he over-reached in response to the citizen's question.) Here's his response via a department spokeswoman when we pressed for more information:
At this time I can confirm that Chief Carey has asked for preliminary information only as to the relevance/necessity of reactivating an Aviation Unit. He wants to consider multiple options to determine which, if any are feasible.