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Private security company poised to launch UAVs

Nov. 4, 2013, Maple Ridge, B.C. - A Maple Ridge security company could soon provide public safety by air, as it gets set to launch drones.


November 4, 2013
By The Province

Topics

Westridge Security Ltd. believes it will be the first private
security firm in B.C. to commercially fly the unmanned aerial vehicles
(UAVs).

The drones should be ready for service in a few weeks,
pending flight permit approval from Transport Canada. They can assist
agencies in search and rescues, firefighting and bylaw enforcement,
among other applications. Drones are already in operation in B.C. – the
RCMP have four.

But outside law enforcement, they're not yet
widely used here, although a Vancouver company, North Guardian UAV
Services Canada, has been demonstrating the devices for Lower Mainland
search-and-rescue teams.

Ridge Meadows Seach and Rescue Team
manager Rick Liang said the drones could offer a cost-effective
alternative to the use of helicopters and aircraft.

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"We may be
able to fly them in weather that we wouldn't be able to fly a helicopter
in or search in drainages or gullies that it would be tricky to
investigate," Liang said. "Most of us in SAR are excited by the thought
of it."

Westridge owner John Griffiths stressed they're prohibited from conducting general surveillance.

"The
perception is drones are used for spying on people, it's Big Brother,"
he said. "But it's only used when requested by an agency. We are not
allowed by Transport Canada to just fly it over residential areas."
Drones
aren't permitted to fly or record images or video over public buildings
or private residences. The only exceptions are assisting in an
emergency scenario if, for example, fire officials request aerial images
of a house fire.

Drones can't be flown more than 120 metres from
the ground crew. Video feeds and photos are controlled by ground crew
and only switched on once the drone is over the target area.

Westridge's
two remote-controlled drones are manufactured in the U.S. One is
designed to carry 5.5 kilograms of goods, the other to withstand
inclement weather. They're equipped with infra-red cameras, navigational
lights and loud alarms that beep to alert the public of their presence.

"You are not surprised by them," Griffiths said. "You know they are in the air if we are flying them."

Deputy
privacy commissioner Michael McEvoy said the office was working with
Westridge to ensure they adhere to B.C. privacy laws.

"Any time an
organization deploys what really is surveillance technology, our office
is concerned about it," said McEvoy of the Office of the Information
and Privacy Commissioner of B.C. Under the Personal Information
Protection Act, organizations are prohibited from collecting data on
citizens without prior consent.


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