Unmanned aircrafts have been used by Saskatchewan RCMP for the past 13 years but will become more present across the province over the next several months. 

Every detachment is set to have access to one Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS), and a pilot, by April of next year. 

Inspector Devin Pugh, Officer in Charge of Support Services Section for the Saskatchewan RCMP, said the drones are an efficient tool for frontline officers. 

“They have cameras on them, very high-definition cameras, and they also have thermal capacity,” he explained. “So, we're able to launch them quickly, provide air support for officers in search and rescue operations. Or situations where we have a pursuit that's ensued, we're able to track and to locate suspects much more efficiently and provide that safety for the public. It's a much safer avenue for our officers to get that really crucial information; you can identify if the person is armed or not, and then be able to quickly locate them and bring them in.” 

So far, 29 front-line detachment officers have been trained as RPAS pilots and 33% of Saskatchewan RCMP detachments have an unmanned aircraft available to them. 

Specialized training is required for officers to operate the drones. They're licensed through Transport Canada and receive their Advanced Remotely Piloted Aircraft license to operate the crafts by remote control. 

Pugh highlighted recent incidents that utilized the RPAS, including an individual getting lost while hiking in Meadow Lake earlier this spring.  

“Their family contacted us early in the morning and reported this person missing,” he said. “We were able to get to the location and we launched one of our remotely piloted aircraft systems that was at the Meadow Lake Detachment. And those officers were able to locate that male in about 23 minutes from the time that they launched the aircraft to the time they actually were able to successfully get him back into safety.  

“It was a cold night and it would have been very tragic, I'm sure, if we weren't able to do that. Our previous search and rescue efforts in those kinds of circumstances could take days to locate people.” 

He added that more recently, a rural detachment along with the Saskatchewan RCMP’s Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT), had barricaded an individual in a house. 

After launching their aircraft, officers watched the man jump from a window and identified that he was armed with a firearm. 

Pugh said this provided the officers with the ability to apprehend him in a much safer manner than if they hadn’t known he had fled or was armed.  

These unmanned aircraft are only used to assist investigations and calls for service when warranted. 

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