Bibb authorities considering new aerial surveillance technology

The Bibb County Sheriff’s Office may get an eye in the sky to help with crime fighting.

Adaptive Flight, a company that makes aerial surveillance vehicles, showed off models of its Hornet series Friday to sheriff’s deputies. The vehicles are small helicopters that can be flown using a control similar to that of a video game or programmed to fly on autopilot. The copters have cameras that can provide live footage or still shots.

Chief Deputy David Davis said a final decision hasn’t been made on whether to buy the surveillance equipment.

“We’re hoping to get one,” he said. “It’s a good use of confiscated funds or maybe even Homeland Security grants.”

If the sheriff’s office decides to buy, the devices could help with such tasks as following fleeing vehicles, monitoring suspicious activity or simply getting license plate numbers.

“A police force can send one of these ahead of time to check out the situation, and if you’ve lost one of these, at least it’s not a person,” said Wayne Pickell, the company’s chief operating officer.

The smallest model demonstrated Friday, the Hornet Micro, can provide a live feed for up to 20 minutes. It weighs about 2.5 pounds and can fly at a range of about 2 miles. Prices vary depending on the equipment installed on the vehicle.

“A lot of forces want a set of these so they can send one out and have another one ready when the first comes back,” Pickell said. “(Cost) can run up to around $80,000 for two of the Hornet Micros.”

Davis said the sheriff’s office might purchase the vehicle with the aid of another law enforcement agency. He said he has high hopes for how the technology will improve over time, making the purchase a better deal for his agency.

“I really know the technology is still in the developmental process, so an agency that purchased one now may not be in good shape compared to one that waited,” he said. “But this technology is improving by light years each year.”