Drone debate. Montgomery County firefighters say the unmanned flying devices could help them save lives—but some county leaders say the benefits don’t outweigh privacy concerns.
Meghan McCorkell has more on the controversy.
Tuesday night, the county executive has scrapped a plan for the fire department to use drones during rescue missions.
From massive fires to dangerous water rescues, firefighters in Montgomery County risk their lives to save others. Now they’ve bought a new tool they say could save more lives. The department purchased three drones this spring.
A test video shows the drone flying high above the county’s fire academy, giving rescue workers a whole new vantage point before they’re sent into a burning building.
But county leaders are clipping the wings of the drone proposal.
“I don’t think it really measurably will add to public safety capabilities. I think that’s what the county executive believes,” said Patrick Lacefield.
Citing concerns over privacy, the county executive has ordered the drones not be used—but one county council member says he doesn’t think the drone plan should be scrapped altogether.
“We can save lives with drones,” said Councilman Roger Berliner.
Berliner says the drones should fly after the county establishes a set of guidelines.
“I’m okay with using drones, as long as we have public, transparent process that establishes the parameters,” Berliner said.
Residents we spoke with see the benefits of the drones.
“Even though people think it would invade their privacy, it could save more lives than it would actually harm,” said Jamal Dixon.
“If it can, you know, save time and energy and less risk for the people who actually go out there and save lives and help us in the community, then I say use them,” said Allison Mathes.
But, for now, the drones will stay grounded.
Other local fire departments we checked in with don’t have any plans to use drones at this point.
A growing number of law enforcements in more than a dozen states use drones as a tool.