ELYRIA — An unmanned aerial vehicle that residents reported seeing Monday over state Route 57 east of downtown belongs to the Elyria Police Department, and it was conducting an aerial survey of the roadway for work purposes, city police officials said Wednesday.
Elyria Police Chief Duane Whitely said the City Engineer’s Office asked his department to take a video of the roadway, one of more than two dozen paving and resurfacing projects happening in the city this spring and summer.
Whitely said the video will be sent to companies bidding to do the work.
State Route 57 will be involved in several paving and resurfacing projects this summer, the City Engineer’s Office said. Included are work on Cleveland Street from Route 57 to the eastern city limits, from Schadden Road to the northern city limits, state Route 113 from 57 to Clemens Avenue and Taylor Street from Route 57 to Winckles Street.
Those projects will be completed with a mix of Ohio Department of Transportation, Ohio Public Works Commission, local and federal funding, City Engineer John Schneider previously has said.
Police Capt. Chris Costantino said the department’s unmanned aerial vehicles — more commonly called drones — have red and green navigational lights, a requirement of FAA regulations because UAVs and drones are considered aircraft under federal law.
“They’re not red and blue flashing lights,” he said. “They’re just like any other aircraft, on there for navigational purposes.”
Costantino said significant training and testing went into the department’s UAV program, with officers required to receive FAA certification to fly the UAVs.
City Council approved the purchase of two UAVs in December. Equipped with cameras and video capability, the specialty aircraft cost $35,000 each, paid out of the city Water Department’s budget, with another $5,000 in software paid for out of the police budget.
They will be used to help find missing people, for crash reconstruction purposes, to assist the Elyria Fire Department at fire scenes and to inspect the city’s water distribution system, including all five of its water towers and its intake system on Lake Erie.
The UAVs will not be armed, used to chase criminal suspects or flown over crowds and will require a warrant signed by a judge to perform video or photographic surveillance.
It is illegal to shoot down a UAV or otherwise interfere with its flight because UAVs are considered aircraft under federal law, and violators could face federal criminal charges.
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