SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCBD) – Summerville unveiled its new drone program on Wednesday but some in the community are not thrilled about the new public safety initiative.
The town held a live demonstration for the new drone program, during which a man said he had some questions and concerns related to how money would be allocated along with privacy issues.
“You read in the newspaper and different things about how bigger cities are defunding their public safety department. Well, I want to say this- we are not defunding our public safety department, we’re funding them,” said Summerville Mayor Ricky Waring during Wednesday’s event.
Summerville presented two new drones, which make up the town’s first drone program. They plan to use them for search and rescue missions.
Mayor Waring even mentioned how they could help locate a missing child much faster, possibly preventing tragedies similar to a drowning that happened earlier this year.
But one gentleman in the audience spoke up and asked Mayor Waring for more specific numbers. How much is the town currently paying to use helicopters in searches versus how much will the new drone program cost?
“I was fire chief for 25 years … and we’ve called in helicopters numerous times over the 25 years, numerous times,” he said in response to the man.
“Well give me, numerous is just a very broad term,” the man responded. “It’s squishy, doesn’t mean anything.”
“What do you want?” Mayor Waring asked.
“I want specifics, I want once every six months we call in a helicopter and that helicopter cost $50,000 and this drone program is worth $1,000. You know, something in that realm would be actually real specific information,” the man said.
When Mayor Waring said the man didn’t understand public safety, words got a bit heated.
“He doesn’t understand public safety,” said Mayor Waring during the demonstration.
“I tell you what, thank God you’re not running again,” he replied.
The town’s operator also flew the two drones on demonstration flights to show everyone its capabilities. The drones have technology on them to help find people at night.
Drone operators said with the two batteries they have, they can keep the drone in the air for at least an hour and a half, but since the drone battery could be recharged, it could basically be used for many hours in a row if needed.