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Drone Program Gives Modesto Police Crime-Fighting Eye In The Sky

MODESTO (CBS13) — The Modesto Police Department is teaming up with Axon, a company that develops everything from body cameras to drones, all in an effort to beef up enforcement and keep people safe.

One of the tools officers are using to fight crime is called the Axon Air.

Officers with the Modesto Police Department's Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Unit are taking flight around the community. The team uses 11 drones to fight crime.

"We've been realizing that it's a force multiplier for us so that we are able to do more with less resources," said Lt. Ivan Valencia, Modesto Police Department.

Thirteen officers are assigned to the UAV. Each of them is well-trained in operating a variety of drones including the newest platform, the Axon air.

"People have actually surrendered to drones now. They see them up in the air, and they feel like there is no sense is running anymore because they are being watched," he said.

Not only can officers out on the crime scene see the footage from the drones so, can detectives from back in the police department.

Any officer can access the drone footage using a program on a desktop, even on a smartphone. The drone can be used for disaster response, crowd management and search and rescue. It gives officers a chance to cover a much larger area.

"I can control the angle of the camera if I need to see straight ahead if I need to see straight down and just vary the angle," said Joe Ramirez, Modesto Police Department.

The drones have night vision camera capabilities. It will help officers monitor homes in standoff situations and track suspect vehicles while flying 400 feet in the air.

"The nice thing about it is you can let go of the controls and it will hover in that location. It operates off of like maybe like 19gps satellites at any given time, depending on how good the signal is," he said.

There are plans to add more drones and even more officers to the UAV team later this year.

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