OC Drone Program Moving Forward

OCEAN CITY – Plans to implement a drone program in Ocean City are “moving in the right direction,” according to resort officials this week.

In the city’s Police Commission meeting Monday, Emergency Services Director Joe Theobald updated resort officials on efforts to establish a program that could use drones and mounted cameras for public safety, incident response, recovery and more.

Preliminary discussions on a drone program began at a police commission meeting last month, when resort officials announced the city had received a grant from the Department of Homeland Security to purchase a drone that will be used by trained operators within the fire, police and emergency services departments.

On Monday, Theobald assured the commission that town staff were making progress in developing a drone program that utilizes grant funding wisely.

“There are a lot of contractors out there that are vying to take on the needs of Ocean City,” he said. “You pay them a dollar amount and they put a program together. That’s not the direction we want to be going. We want to put our funding into the equipment.”

Theobald said the town was working with legal counsel, municipalities and other resources to implement policies and procedures that will guide a future drone program in Ocean City.

“We are still evaluating different municipalities that have them (policies),” he said. “We are not going to reinvent the wheel, but we are going to make sure they are tailored to what our needs are.”

Theobald noted that the development of a drone program will also come with an educational component.

“There are still many surveillance concerns with the public,” he said. “We have to make sure we address all of that and make sure we educate the public on why we are doing what we are doing.”

In addition to the town securing a certificate of authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration, Theobald said each employee tasked with operating the drone will be required to undergo pilot testing.

“When it’s said and done, it going to be done right,” he said.

Councilman Dennis Dare, chair of the commission, said the program would utilize emerging technology and the knowledge of first responders to assess emergency situations in town.

“You have the information right there with low risk and low cost,” he said.

Dare commended the progress made on the drone program.

“I think we are on track, and it’s great to have the funding to buy the equipment,” he said.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.