Macon-Bibb committees support subsouth recreation plan

Macon-Bibb County commissioners on Tuesday moved a step closer to buying drones that would be used by public safety agencies.

The commission’s Economic and Community Development Committee agreed to a memorandum of understanding for a $5.7 million proposal that proponents say would make Macon a regional hub for emergency and natural disaster response. Commissioners will vote July 21.

The contract cannot be approved until details are finalized.

Representatives from Olaeris, a developer and manufacturer of unmanned aerial systems, and Haeco, a $2 billion aviation company, gave a presentation to county leaders Tuesday answering questions about the time frame of the project and safety concerns.

“We think it’s 21st century and perhaps even 22nd century technology that’s being deployed,” Mayor Robert Reichert said.

If the project is approved by the full commission, Macon-Bibb would have the first countywide unmanned aircraft system in the world, Olaeris CEO Ted Lindsley said Monday.

The drones are nearly ready to being manufactured, but it would likely take 16-24 months before the aircraft can be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, including guidelines and safety requirements, Lindsley said.

Olaeris estimates that for every $1 spent on their drones, a government will save $6 to $8 of manpower.

Some commissioners said they were somewhat hesitant since it’s tough to predict the constraints of a future budget when it might be two years before the county is paying for drones.

The five-year contract would cost $96,000 a month.

“That’s the only thing that makes me nervous; at the end of two years we’re obligating a future commission to this expenditure,” Commissioner Elaine Lucas said. “I know (the system) will be beneficial.”

The drones, which would be the size of a king-size mattress and reach 100 mph, would be placed in locations where they could get anywhere in the county within 90 seconds to several minutes.

Sheriff David Davis said the unmanned aerial aircraft would help his department become more efficient.

They could be used on calls for burglaries, robberies, hostage situations and fires.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Stanley Dunlap, call 744-4623.