A photo of Middle Beach in Kennebunk taken with a drone on March 6. SUBMITTED PHOTO/Courtesy of York County Emergency Management Agency

OLD ORCHARD BEACH — The police department is using grant money to purchase a drone for Old Orchard Beach.

Old Orchard Beach Police Chief Dana Kelley said at Tuesday night’s Town Council meeting that the police department had about $10,000 left of a $100,000 CDBG Safe Communities Grant that was going to expire at the end of the month. Kelley said he spoke with the fire department and both department’s thought purchasing a drone for about $9,000 was a good use of the funds.

“We feel that having a drone would enhance our ability to search for lost people,” said Kelley. He said the drone could be used to help locate lost children on the beach. The drone can identify heat sources ,which can help identify someone lost in the woods. The drone has a two- to three-mile flight distance and could aid in off shore search operations.

Deputy Fire Chief Richard Kindelan, an FAA certified drone pilot, said that those operating the drone would receive the proper training.

“This is not something we’re going to get out of the box and start flying right away. We’re going to put the work into making sure we get people qualified and operate it properly,” he said.

The Town Council approved the purchase of the drone. Councilor Joseph Thornton said he thought the drone was a good use of money that was otherwise going to disappear in less than two weeks.

“I appreciate you thinking outside the box, this is great stuff,” he said.

The York County Emergency Management Agency has had a drone program since 2015, said Director Art Cleaves. The agency uses a team of drone volunteers who have received the proper training and certifications.

The York County EMA drone system was used during recent storm activity in coastal areas such as Camp Ellis to take footage before, during and after high tides. It  has also been used to locate hot spots and get a better view of large scale fires including the fire in May that spread across 314 acres in Kennebunk, Sanford and Wells.

“It’s been an extremely helpful tool for first responders,” Cleaves said.

Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 325 or [email protected]

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