CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Charleston Police Department (CPD) says they’re always looking for better ways to protect and serve their community, and Friday morning, News 2 had the opportunity to spend time with members of CPD’s Air Ops Team to learn more about how they’re using drones to do just that.

Charleston police are using state-of-the-art technology to keep the Lowcountry safe.

“We actually started putting the team together in 2017,” Scott Newsome, CPD’s director of fleet and air operations, said. “That involved us, we have a policy on how we pick members for every special unit. So, we look for some aviation background, military aviation, that sort of thing.”

CPD’s Air Ops Team currently has eight members who have put in extensive flight hours and are now capable of handling several situations from above.

“If we had something at the mall,” Newsome said, “and we needed to go in there and get eyes in there without jeopardizing an officer or other folks, we could send a small drone in there. Hazmat situations, bomb callouts, mapping crime scenes, mapping traffic collisions.”

The officers say their unit has multiple drones and the Inspire drone they flew Friday, can fly at speeds up to 40 mph, hundreds of feet in the air.

Sgt. Shane Garrison says he joined the Air Ops Team because of his love of flying.

“That passion actually came from my dad,” Garrison said. “He was a pilot. He flew for law enforcement. He flew for Dorchester County, and I’ve always just loved airplanes. I’ve always loved the idea of flying, getting up in the air.”

Officer Gabriel Walsh says he enjoys flying, especially during demos like Friday, because he can see Charleston in a way only few can.

“It’s a really beautiful landscape and you can really only enjoy some of that beauty from 200, 300 feet up,” Walsh said. “And I feel very fortunate to be a part of this unit to be able to see that.”

CPD says they’re looking to buy more drones this year, including a waterproof drone to withstand inclement weather.