BRUNSWICK — The Town Council got its first look Tuesday night at a new Brunswick Police policy outlining when – and how – officers will use drones acquired through a Federal Railroad Administration pilot program the town approved in November.

The program – the first of its kind in the United States – will have officers patrolling sections of Brunswick’s railroad tracks with drones in order to spot trespassers. Initially, the device will be used only for detection and education, will be owned by the railroad administration and will not be used to issue fines or other kinds of enforcement.

“The initial issue of education and detection of trespassing was set forth by the FRA,” Brunswick Patrol Commander Thomas Garrepy said . He added that for the first few years, the drone will not be used for any enforcement, and that any person spotted trespassing would be given education on the dangers of trespassing on rail lines.

The policy details when officers will be allowed to use drones, and how the department can utilize drones after the initial pilot phase of the program is over. Garrepy said he used details from other established policies – such as a Maine State Police policy on drone usage – as a model for Brunswick’s.

Certain aspects of the policy brought questions from councilors. Recently elected Councilor James Mason in particular was concerned about whether the policy did enough to ensure the privacy of residents.

“It’s going to include the backyards, the privacies of people who are going to be in this area,” Mason said. “I’m just a little concerned about that.”

Garrepy said that especially for the first few years of the program, the drone is primarily going to be used only along the railroad tracks. He added that while the policy allows for the installation of high-powered audio recording devices and cameras, the department has “no intention” of purchasing or installing them due to cost.

“We’re not going to be flying over other people’s property without a search warrant, I guarantee you that,” Garrepy said.

The main uses outside of railroad surveillance that Garrepy anticipates are crash reconstruction, an emergency situation such as a search-and-rescue, or some other instance where aerial photography would be helpful.

The policy also details that anyone operating the drone will need FAA certification, and that “four to six” operators will be determined in the department through a competitive process.

Garrepy expects the program to begin in the “early springtime.”

Chris Chase can be contacted at:

cchas[email protected]