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Michigan State Police drone takes flight

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

The Michigan State Police is showing off its brand-new drone.

At a special demonstrationin south Lansing, dozens of news cameras followed the small drone as it flew through the sky, the drone’s whirling blades making less noise than a mosquito. Lt. Patrick Lawrence says that's by design.

“Sometimes we would like it to be loud.  At times you want it to be quiet. This particular mission it doesn’t matter what noise it makes,” says Lawrence.

The $160,000 drone is much cheaper than manned aircraft. It's equipped with a video and an infrared camera.  

Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
MSP purchased the device in Sept. 2013. The FAA gave the MSP permission to fly it statewide in Feb. 2015.

The MSP is still testing to see if it can be as effective, given restrictions the Federal Aviation Administration has placed on drones, including that the drone must be in sight of the remote pilot at all times.

“We have to (test) the feasibility and unique missions,” says Lawrence, “As time goes on, we may increase the fleet but there’s no plans to buy one right now.”

MSP plans to use the drone in search and rescue, disaster response, and crime scene and crash investigations. The drone has already been used as part of an arson investigation.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.