Mayoral candidate Gord Steeves will give Winnipeg police drones as a way to backstop the police helicopter, which is frequently out of use.
The former St. Vital councillor said he’d like to buy two drones at a cost of about $35,000 each to help police investigate specific incidents. They would not be used for general surveillance except with a warrant.
Steeves said RCMP are already using unmanned aerial vehicles to detect grow-ops. He said the same checks and balances in place for the police helicopter would also be used for the drones.
"It doesn’t give the police any more liberty than they had previously," he said. "What this does is allows us, in a very cost-effective and efficient way, to backfill a safety need in our community."
The promise is the latest in Steeves’ right-wing swing, and bolsters another tough-on-crime promise earlier this month to saturate high-priority areas with police and add more cadets downtown to deal with drunks and panhandlers.
Winnipeg would be the first city in Canada to use drones and would have to adhere to Transport Canada safety regulations, said Steeves.
The drones would only be deployed when the helicopter was out of commission, which happens often. In 2012, it didn’t fly about a third of the year due to unscheduled maintenance, staffing shortages and weather. And, it can only fly for 2.5 hours a day.
Steeves says he’s encountered little opposition to the police helicopter, but adding another would cost $4 million in capital costs.
In June, mayoral candidate Robert-Falcon Ouellette proposed replacing the police helicopter with a $100,000-aerial drone and a trained operator, saying the helicopter’s annual operating budget is an unnecessary expense.