Michigan State Police get permission from FAA to use drone

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- The Federal Aviation Administration has given Michigan State Police permission to use an aerial drone, which has had its first test investigating a fire in western Michigan.

State police announced the approval Monday. The state says it plans to use a drone to photograph vehicle crash scenes and get a better view of other emergency situations across Michigan.

State police bought the $158,000 remote-controlled helicopter in September 2013 and have been training pilots since then.

In the months since then, state police have "worked closely with the FAA to meet all safety and training requirements, as well as to develop policies and procedures for the safe and effective implementation of this equipment," spokeswoman Tiffany Brown said in a statement.

The FAA gave its final approval for use of the drone on Feb. 25, and state police put it to use for the first time last Wednesday to fly over the scene of a fire near Jenison in western Michigan.

The federal approval lets the state "support requests for service from any law enforcement agency within the state," Brown said. 

Among the rules for use of the drone are that it remain below 400 feet and "always be within line of sight of the crew," she said.

A demonstration of the drone is planned Wednesday morning at the state police training academy in Lansing. 

The drone can take hundreds of overlapping photos, and a computer program can then combine them to create a three-dimensional map of a crash, helping investigators reconstruct how vehicle pileups occur, state police 1st Lt. Chris Bush said in January.
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