Unmanned Aerial System

The Ottawa Police Service (OPS) has identified the need for Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), otherwise known as drones, to assist in responding to calls for service for serious and fatal traffic collisions, missing persons, and other operational requirements. The use of UAS technology is a forward trend in policing. Several police services across Canada have UAS programs in place which help improve their responses to, and increase public safety.

Funding for the UAS was made possible by a generous donation by our community partner Safer Roads Ottawa (SRO).  Use of this technology will not only help responding officers in multiple ways, but will help clear incidents like collision scenes faster, which will help residents get where they need to go more quickly, as well as enhance safety on our roads for all users.

The ability to use UAS technology will provide a cost effective and more readily available supplement to the current OPS aircraft.  The UAS will increase public safety, by providing a rapid overview of search areas to assist the Emergency Services Unit (ESU), reduce the time required for collision reconstruction, and assist the effectiveness of other sections.

For example, a missing person incident, with the potential to require a protracted deployment of resources, may be resolved with the timely use of an UAS. In economic terms, this means a reduced requirement for personnel to be deployed over an extended period of time.

Drones will help police help residents, faster, during critical calls for service 

  • The OPS Collision Investigation Unit (CIU) can deploy a drone over a traffic accident and create 3-D image mapping of the incident to provide an accurate depiction of crash scenes. Additionally, leveraging this technology will help in collision reconstruction.
  • A UAS can quickly cover vast areas of territory in the search for a missing person. In instances of missing persons, time is of the essence, and this device will help navigate terrain that would otherwise take extensive frontline hours. 
  • A UAS can also help with forensic identification, by providing an aerial view of a crime scene and capture photographic and video evidence for investigative and court purposes.
  • Drones can also be used to enhance officer safety by providing a visual overview of safety hazards in any given area, and assist incident commanders and on-scene personnel with making the most prudent and informed decisions during incidents like a hostage rescue, barricaded persons, high-risk warrants, or any prolonged police event.
Photo Gallery: Unmanned Aerial System will appear here on the public site.
What is an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS)?
UAS is an acronym for Unmanned Aerial Systems, or in other words, a drone. The RCMP has recently adopted the term Remotely Piloted Aerial System (RPAS).
What are the benefits of an UAS?

A UAS will enable the Collision Investigation Unit, Emergency Services Unit, Tactical, Forensic Identification Section and other areas to use their resources more effectively, efficiently and safely (for example: serious and fatal traffic collisions or missing persons cases).

Who regulates the use of an UAS?
The personal and commercial use of UASs (drones) is regulated by Transport Canada.  A Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) is required by law.  In addition, the Ottawa Police Service must abide by its internal policies and procedures, as well as the Criminal Code of Canada. There are numerous checks and balances that guide us in the use of a UAS to ensure safety, security and reasonable privacy when using the technology.
Will the drones be used for surveillance?
No. Our current uses and procedures do not include surveillance.
What information will be collected when flying the UAS?
Information collected will depend on the use of the UAS.  For collision or crime scene mapping, and emergency situations the images and/or videos will be collected and retained as per our policy on evidence collection and will be disclosed for court purposes.  For missing persons, the UAS will not collect any images or videos as its use will only be for searching for individuals.  GPS logs will be kept to establish which areas were investigated.  If the UAS is deployed in a non-emergency situation where individuals have a reasonable right to privacy, officers will be required to obtain judicial authorization (warrant) to capture images or videos.
How long is the UAS's flight time?
The UAS has a flight time of about 28 minutes. Additional batteries allow for an extended flight.
Who will be using the UAS?
Trained and certified officers will operate the UAS for the purposes of collision and crime scene mapping, the search of missing persons, and other emergency situations where officers would benefit from the UAS (barricaded person, hostage taking).
Do any other police services use drones?
Yes, numerous police services across the province, and the country, are using this technology.
If I have questions about the UAS, who should I contact?
Contact the UAS Program Manager, S/Sgt François D’Aoust, by email.
Will you tell the public when the UAS is in use?
We can only notify the public of the use of the UAS when it’s feasible. Often our flights are unplanned, or occur at night. 

Drone Safety - Know before you go