The Birmingham Police Department purchases drone

By: Mary Genson | Birmingham-Bloomfield Eagle | Published October 31, 2023

 Officer Stefan Syts operates the Birmingham Police Department’s new drone.

Officer Stefan Syts operates the Birmingham Police Department’s new drone.

Photo provided by the Birmingham Police Department


BIRMINGHAM — The Birmingham Police Department recently purchased its first drone.

Chief Scott Grewe said having a drone will supplement the city’s surveillance during events and will supplement the “overwatch program” — where officers are assigned to monitor events from on top of buildings. Grewe said the drone will give them more mobility to cover a larger area when an event is going on.

Additionally, the drone will be helpful in locating missing people and suspects. There are infrared cameras to make these searches more efficient.

“The technology that’s out there for us to be able to do that as a local police department allows us to be more effective in those types of searches or overwatch, or those types of special events,” Grewe said.

Grewe said this equipment cost around $23,000, which included the drone; the camera, which includes the infrared camera; extra battery packs; and charging units.

This equipment may also be used to help the Fire Department detect the spread of fires.

“In the case of any real natural disaster, it gives us the ability to get a broader view of what’s taking place or what has taken place so that we can better respond to those situations,” Grewe said.

City Manager Jana Ecker said the drone will have many uses.

“We also have, believe it or not, some activity that goes on from time to time on the roofs of our parking decks, so this will allow us to keep an eye out on those at certain times as well,” Ecker said. “There are definitely different things that we plan to do with it.”

The Police Department chose to purchase the Matrice 350 RTK safety drone from NOAR Technologies, a Clawson-based company.

“As a part of their quote, they do provide training to the officers that we select to become pilots, so that was a huge incentive to pick them, as other companies didn’t offer that,” Grewe said. “But also just for any warranty repairs and any issues, it is nice having a local company that we can deal with.”

Currently, two officers from the Birmingham Police Department have obtained the required FAA training and certification. They plan to eventually have several officers trained.

“Our goal is to have the availability of a pilot on duty as often as possible,” Grewe said.

Right now, the training certification only allows officers to keep the drone within their line of sight. However, Ecker said that “they are looking to get the next level of certification, which basically would allow it to cover the entire city from City Hall.”