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The sky's the limit with city purchasing an aerial camera

By Jim Fair, Editor
Published on Wednesday, May 28, 2014

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The Riverwood Farms fire afforded Travis Runion, a homeowner in the community, to video the damage from overhead using a quadrotor.
 
 

Captured Video Productions

The Riverwood Farms fire afforded Travis Runion, a homeowner in the community, to video the damage from overhead using a quadrotor.

 

 



Enlarge photo

Aerial camera. Drone. Quadrotor copter. Regardless of the name used, the City of Greer has designated funds in the 2014-2015 budget for its first purchase of the controversial item.

Captured Video Productions

Aerial camera. Drone. Quadrotor copter. Regardless of the name used, the City of Greer has designated funds in the 2014-2015 budget for its first purchase of the controversial item.



Enlarge photo

This quadcopter is similar to the one that hovered over the infield at Fluor Field during a Greenville Drive game last week.
 

This quadcopter is similar to the one that hovered over the infield at Fluor Field during a Greenville Drive game last week.

 



Enlarge photo

The Doctors Express ribbon cutting at Suber Commons was documented by a quadcopter taking video.
 

Jim Fair

The Doctors Express ribbon cutting at Suber Commons was documented by a quadcopter taking video.

 



Aerial camera. Drone. Quadrotor copter.

Whatever you want to call it, Greer City Council approved $2,000 for what it describes as an aerial camera to be purchased from the $19.76 million budget that swiftly passed first reading Tuesday night.

Councilman Wryley Bettis called it a drone when questioning its cost.

Travis Runion may have inadvertently been the person most responsible for convincing the city to explore the quadrotor copters.

Runion, owner of Captured Video Productions, lives in Riverwood Farms, a community that just escaped substantial damage when a fire, started from a lit cigarette thrown in the grass, raged out of control nearly two months ago. One home and a three-unit condominium were destroyed. There were no injuries.

Runion’s aerial video the day after the fire, showed the destruction and path the fire took from the side of a road, jumping a fence and quickly engulfing the two structures, before it was stopped just short of attacking the entire subdivision.

“As long as you are using common sense it’s much safer probably than bringing in a full size copter.” And Runion pointed out, “A lot less expensive.”

Mayor Rick Danner said the uses for the coptor go well beyond law enforcement and the fire department. “That (coptor) can help our inspectors and save money,” Danner said. “It’s safer than putting a person on a roof and climbing a ladder . . . it’s a lot less hazardous.”

“The main benefit is you can put up a relatively harmless device, that is lightweight with cameras and it gives a visual perspective while keeping individuals out of harm’s way,” Runion said.

Runion said he talked with the deputy fire marshall (Carl Howell) and discussed the coptor’s route and angle over Riverwood Farms. “They were talking about having to bring a ladder truck to get a high view,” Runion said. “(The coptor) gives you a different perspective.”

“The fire (video) started sparking ideas,” said David Seifert, City Director of Finance and IT. “It helps control a fire scene from an aerial camera and it keeps inspectors on the ground.”

“It’s much more helpful on the spot and gives people (overhead) visual assess during the situation,” Runion said.

The coptors can help protect first responders, support law enforcement and aid in search and rescue.

Last week NYC Police Commissioner Bill Bratton told his city council’s Public Safety Committee, “Myself, I’m supportive of the concept of drones, not only for police but for public safety in general. It’s something that we actively keep looking at and stay aware of.”

In Miami, police officers are required to obtain a warrant before using a drone, unless someone’s life is in danger, to ensure they don’t violate anyone’s Fourth Amendment rights. And in Seattle, citizens’ concerns about the potential for privacy rights to be violated prompted the Seattle Police Department to abandon plans to use night-vision cameras.

The use of commercial coptors/drones is awaiting regulation from the Federal Aviation Administration. Congress has ordered the FAA to change airspace rules to make it easier for police nationwide to use domestic drones.

Doctors Express in Greer used a quadcoptor to video and photograph its ribbon cutting. A coptor hovered above the infield at Fluor Field while a Greenville Drive game was being played last week.

The American Civil Liberties Union recommends safeguards regulating usage limits, data retention guidelines, policy, abuse prevention and accountability and weapons.

Surveillance coptors have been the subject of intense discussion both among the public and legislators.

South Carolina is among 36 states that have introduced legislation on coptor/drone restrictions with a range of privacy and Fourth Amendment protections. The S.C. House unanimously passed the measure. It is active in 22 states, enacted in three states and overall (2013-2014) laws enacted in 12 states.

 

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